This election cycle is going to be tough on down ballot races. Donald Trump is sucking the wind out of all the news and voters only have so much room for politics in their daily lives. Campaigns will struggle to get much attention from the press and will struggle even more to capture the imagination of the electorate.

The problem is already evident in North Carolina. In five weeks, the state has a primary that includes a lot more than just presidential candidates. The GOP primary for governor should be galvanizing the party. Democrats need to choose a US Senate candidate. On both the Democratic and Republican side, heated contests for lieutenant governor are playing out in silence. Most voters don’t even know who’s running. 

Impeachment and the Democratic primary are certainly taking up a lot of space, so maybe when the trial is done, more people will focus on the races. By that time, though, the presidential candidates will be turning their attention to North Carolina. Their appearances in the state and on television could further drown the down ballot candidates. 

Let’s give them a moment of attention, at least those at the very top. 

In the Republican gubernatorial primary, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest faces state Rep. Holly Grange, two-term legislator from Wilmington. Grange, a West Point graduate, was touted as a moderate to Forest who’s known for his extreme social conservatism. Forest has a better operation with more money and looks poised to win handily, but I suspect Grange would be the better general election candidate.

In the Democratic US Senate primary, the race has really come down to state Senator Erica Smith and former state Senator Cal Cunningham. Cunningham has the institutional backing, the organization and the money. Smith is complaining about establishment interference but she never put together a serious campaign when she had the chance. She announced early and then failed to post a substantial fundraising report. Had she jumped into the race and raised $250,000 in her first quarter, she would have cleared the field. She didn’t and now she’s struggling. She can still win, but it’s becoming more difficult and her campaign message is one of whining more than winning. 

The lieutenant governor’s race on the Democratic side is a crowded field with two African American state representatives, Chaz Beasley and Yvonne Holley, a state senator, Terry Van Duyn, and three other lesser known candidates. Right now, the race seems to be a tossup. No candidate has gotten significant traction in the state, but any of the state legislators would be good candidates. Van Duyn, though, had more than $300,000 cash on hand at the mid-year reporting period. In a race that struggles for attention, the candidate with the most money probably has an advantage. 

I don’t know enough about the crowded lieutenant governor’s race on the GOP side to write about it. I’ll try to write about our Congressional primaries and further down ballot statewide races in another post. This is enough for now. 


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