Kudos to both parties for filling up the ballot in North Carolina this year. Every legislative race will be contested in November and 12 of 13 Congressional districts have races. I’m glad I didn’t know Democrats didn’t have a challenger in NC-03. I would have hated to run down there. Besides, I like Walter Jones.
The full ballot benefits Democrats more than Republicans because the GOP has more to lose. Gerrymandered districts will provide Republicans some protection but they now have a lot more incumbents to protect. Democrats have to protect their incumbents, too, but fewer of them are vulnerable. They are certainly the side on offense right now.
Of course a lot of these races won’t be very competitive, but a few surprises will probably emerge. Challengers in tough districts will prove to be better than expected. Incumbents in seemly noncompetitive races will turnout to be weaker than anticipated. Some incumbents who’ve been in office too long without competition will turn out to be weak campaigners. Nobody can afford a scandal now.
And if a wave hits, all bets are off. Challengers in seats that should be safe will find themselves in office. The best defense against a wave is a strong campaign. The best chance to catch a wave is a strong campaign. Candidates should be raising money and organizing.
Putting together strong campaigns requires competent and experienced staff. That’s becoming a problem. Democrats lack a large enough pool of campaign operatives to meet the demand. It’s not just a problem in North Carolina. It’s happening across the country. With a record number of candidates running nationally, the talent got scooped up early, leaving a lot campaigns with inexperienced staff. For young people interested in politics, it’s an opportunity to shine. In a lot campaigns, natural talent will rise quickly.
We’ll also learn a lot about candidates. Many people signed up who have very little campaign or political experience. Expect a lot of rookie mistakes. Also, we’ll probably find out that we’ve got some characters on the ballot that will provide comic relief throughout the cycle.
Finally, a number of candidates who filed are really activists. Activists tend to make poor candidates. They think their role is to convince people to come to their point of view when, really, their job is to prove that they would best represent the views of their potential constituents. As I tell my candidates, “It’s not about you. It’s not about your opponent. It’s about the voters.”
For political junkies, 2018 will be a fun cycle to follow. For our democracy, 2018 will be healthy. Congratulations to recruiters in both parties for filling the ballots. Now, let the games begin!
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >