RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina gubernatorial race is not only getting national attention, but it is a top priority of the
Republican Governors Association.
The group is throwing money behind Patrick Ballantine -- money that Ballantine knows he needs.
Ballantine is challenging Gov. Mike Easley, who appears to be in the driver's seat right now. Unlike Ballantine, Easley has millions in the bank, and voters know his name.
With $2 million, Ballantine was the fundraising leader in the Republican race for governor. He spent it all to win the primary. Now, he has to start from scratch in his bid to unseat Easley.
Since Tuesday's primary, Ballantine raised $275,000. He already has sunk some of that money into a new round of TV ads.
With four months to go until the general election, Ballantine hopes to raise at least $5 million more to stay competitive with Easley.
"He has a big advantage over us right now," Ballantine said of Easley. "That's O.K. We knew that. We just have to catch up."
Easley clearly has a head start. The Democrat has more than $5 million in his war chest and has yet to really start his campaign.
"It always helps to have more money in the bank than your opponent," Easley campaign spokesman Jay Reiff said. "But the key is the message of what the candidates are going to be talking about."
According to political onlookers, the message may be that Ballantine is not as far behind as he may appear.
The Republican Governors Association will spend up to $2 million in support of Ballantine.
"The infusion of money from out of state from the Republican Governors Association will equalize the playing field," Democratic strategist Brad Crone said.
Others argue that Ballantine will not have to raise as much money as Easley to make this a competitive race.
"Very rarely do you get into a situation where one candidate has to raise the exact amount of the other candidate," Republican consultant Dee Stewart said.
If the 2000 governor's race is any indication, a lot of fundraising is yet to come.
In the three months leading up to the election in 2000, Easley raised $4.9 million to Richard Vinroot's $3.6 million. The total amount spent in 2000 by the two candidates equaled more than $19 million.