House District 51: Rep. Mike Stone (R) vs. Brad Salmon (D)
HD-51, which takes in parts of Harnett and Lee counties, is a district where local circumstances could prove decisive. It’s the one area of the state where it looks like hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, would be economically viable. Thus, residents of Lee County probably know more about the fracking issue in North Carolina than anyone else. Like the rest of the state, they’re divided on the issue, but opponents are much more energized, fearing that fracking will threaten their property values and pollute the water.
The incumbent here is Rep. Mike Stone, a pretty generic Republican who has voted the conservative party line, including the vote to speed up fracking in NC. Stone was first elected in the Republican wave of 2010, and made news when he protested his 8-year-old daughter’s class being forced to write letters to him urging him to vote against budget cuts. One of the more controversial bills he’s issued included a bill to change Sanford city elections from non-partisan to partisan.
Stone won reelection in 2012 by 4 points in what was a good Republican year at the state level. Now, the political winds have shifted, and Stone looks to be one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents. Republican strategists feel that his seat will be one of the hardest to hold. His challenger this year is Brad Salmon, an attorney who styles himself as a moderate-to-conservative Democrat. Salmon ran for the open seat in Senate District 12 against Ronald Rabin and lost a close one. Instead of seeking a rematch against Rabin, Salmon has decided to challenge Stone, who looks more vulnerable.
The Civitas Institute released a poll on this race two weeks ago. It shows Stone down 12 points on Salmon, 49%-37%. Even though HD-51 residents opt for a “generic Republican” over a generic Democrat, Stone has a poor 25/42 favorable rating, which contributes to his trailing by double-digits. Interesting, more voters in this district say they’ll vote based on North Carolina-based issues (50%) than national issues (46%). This race isn’t exactly a total referendum on fracking, but the GOP legislative agenda combined with the unpopularity of the incumbent has clearly made this a race that favors the Democratic challenger.
Counties in district: Harnett (part), Lee (part)
District Rating: Tilts Democratic
52.0% Stone (R)
48.0% Tatum (D)
Results in Other Elections
Social Media Support
Brad Salmon (D) – 1,324
Rep. Mike Stone (R) – 974
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.