Local Politics

Tight Race Between Obama and Clinton Could Impact State Races

Posted February 11, 2008

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— North Carolina took its first official step toward the November election with the opening of candidate filing Monday. Candidates filed paperwork when elections officials statewide began accepting applications at noon Monday for the 2008 ballot.

The candidates file based on party affiliations, but these days, you can't count only on members of your own party.

The state has 5.6 million people registered to vote and 1.1 million of those are unaffiliated. That means 20 percent of voters are a virtual wild card in a two-party system. 

Their impact in the tight race between U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois for the Democratic nomination could affect Democrats in state races as well.

If Obama and Clinton continue to run neck and neck, the state's May 6 primary could help determine the winner.

“Well for political junkies, it's great. It's like the circus coming to town,” said Gary Pearce, a Democratic consultant who worked with former presidential candidate John Edwards during his 1998 Senate campaign.

Pearce said more attention on Obama and Clinton, means more attention on the leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and State Treasurer Richard Moore

High turnouts in the Democrat primary could force Perdue and Moore to reach a wider audience.

“For the governor's race, this is something the professionals don't want to deal with. It's a nightmare. You want to control everything you can," Pearce said.

North Carolina's primary is open. Those 1.1 million unaffiliated voters are allowed to vote in either the Republican or Democrat primary, and state election officials said a close national race could spark historic highs in voter turnout.

“We could have as much participation as in the general election,” said Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections.

Campaign officials for Moore and Perdue said they are strategizing about ways to reach unaffiliated voters.

High-ranking state lawmakers and election officials said more interest is good for the electoral process.

“I believe it's healthy and good for North Carolina if it would be recognized,” said Senate President Marc Basnight, D-Dare.

The year “2008 is going to be a year to remember in elections,” Bartlett said.

“The fact is, nobody knows. Nobody can predict. One thing we know this election year, is that every prediction is wrong, including this one, probably,” Pearce said.

If the race between Clinton and Obama seems decided by May, however,  voter turnout will fizzle.

The number of unaffiliated voters is growing in the state. It soared from 5 to 6 percent in the 1980s to the current 20 percent.

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  • Through a glass darkly Feb 12, 2008

    "Obama is scary because he could win. Hillary stands a better change of getting beaten in the general elections."

    I believe the Republicans have accidentally hit on the only candidate who could win in November. All the while, the Democrats are setting up to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Deja vu all over again.

  • Tripwire Feb 12, 2008

    Obama is scary because he could win. Hillary stands a better change of getting beaten in the general elections. So all you Dems vote for Hillary.

  • x Feb 12, 2008

    ncwoman, you think Obama is scary? Have you forgotten all the scandals Hillary was linked to back in the 90's? And don't forget she is a package deal ... you get him, too, and he's the one who turned his back on Bin Laden. If you ask me, the Clinton's are the scary ones and we need someone like Obama to change the mix in Washington.

    We also need something big to change in our state executive branch. I'm hoping I can find one of the republican candidates to back for governor so we can get these democrats out of control. It's the governor and the whole executive branch that needs changing. Maybe the legislature will take care of itself, but who knows about them. Look at this Wright scandel. Every resident should be hugely disappointed in the effectiveness and value we get from our state government.

  • whatelseisnew Feb 12, 2008

    Circus coming to town - a perfect analogy. I am sure this will prove interesting, the biggest downside is going to be all the radio and television advertising.

  • ncwoman Feb 12, 2008

    I'm not a big Hillary fan, but I hope she wins the nomination. Obama is likeable but a bit scary.