Local Politics

Turnout for N.C. Primary Could Affect Gubernatorial Race

Posted March 10, 2008 5:58 p.m. EDT
Updated March 10, 2008 11:38 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina's growing importance in the tightly contested Democratic presidential race should boost voter turnout for the May 6 primary to all-time highs, producing a ripple effect on down-ballot races, political observers said.

"It's going to be historic, no doubt," Brad Crone, a Democratic political consultant, said of the expected turnout.

Crone said a high turnout could tilt the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination toward Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue.

"I think when you look at it at the end of the day, Perdue is going to be the benefactor of this high volume of turnout," he said, citing her strength with older women and black voters.

But David McLennan, a political science professor at Peace College, said presidential candidate Barack Obama could bring a bloc of voters to the polls who would support State Treasurer Richard Moore's gubernatorial bid.

"Obama's influence is cutting across many different categories," McLennan said. "If Obama's primary audience or primary supporters happen to be very young – under 30 – and he gets a lot of under-30 people out to the polls, I could see that helping Moore."

Moore's campaign manager, Jay Reiff, said that even political insiders are having trouble reading the wild card of voter turnout.

"I think it's way too early to tell what that means for either campaign," Reiff said.

The race between Obama and Hillary Clinton also could impact the Republican gubernatorial race, observers said. Large numbers of unaffiliated voters casting Democratic ballots instead of Republican ballots could hurt Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, they said.