Deborah Ross is the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, but her two main opponents aren’t going away without a fight. Chris Rey and Kevin Griffin are both making arguments from electability: she might be a nice person, but Deborah Ross is too far-left to win against Richard Burr this November. In particular, they’re seizing upon her prior service as state director of the ACLU, which they insist would be a gift-wrapped package for the Burr campaign.
Chris Rey, mayor of the small town of Spring Lake, says: Pick me instead. I’m more of a centrist and I have an inspiring story. I can give Richard Burr a good fight this fall.
Kevin Griffin, businessman from Durham, says: No, pick me. I’m not a career politician. I’m a businessman. What’s Richard Burr going to attack me on? Creating jobs? I’m an outsider, that’s what voters want this year, and with your help I’ll send Richard Burr packing.
The attacks (or rather, ‘raising doubts’) on Ross are a departure from North Carolina Democratic primaries of years past, when the candidates would try to out-progressive each other. Electability always seemed like more of a minor concern. Then again, we’ve never had a frontrunner as liberal as Ross, who also seems to be the establishment horse. And rank-and-file North Carolina Democrats are still a little more conservative than Democrats nationwide. So maybe there’s something there.
There are only two Democratic Senate primaries from recent history to go on: the Hagan/Neal primary of 2008, and the Marshall/Cunningham race of 2010. Right now, the polls show a race that looks more like the former: Ross has a strong lead and if she can get on television, she can put this thing away early. At this point the best-case scenario for Rey and Griffin is to get into a runoff with the former Raleigh legislator, whose chief strengths are her geographic base in the Triangle and appeal with women – valuable assets in a North Carolina Democratic primary.
We have a little over two months to go until the primary, so there’s not much time for her opponents to make a case against Ross. My bet is that concerns of electability alone won’t be nearly enough to sink her, at least in the primary, so they’re going to need a lot more ammunition if they don’t want Deborah Ross on the ticket this fall.
John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: email@example.com.