Local Politics

Presidential Primary Overshadows N.C. Races

Posted March 24, 2008 5:46 p.m. EDT
Updated March 24, 2008 6:55 p.m. EDT

— The growing importance of North Carolina's presidential primary has pushed statewide races into the shadows, which observers say will make it hard for lesser-known candidates.

Unlike recent years, when the presidential nominations had been sewn up long before North Carolina's late primary, the tight race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has put a premium on the state's 134 delegates. Both candidates were scheduled to make appearances in the state this week, and they're the main topic of conversation in Raleigh diners.

"All you hear on the news right now is Obama or Clinton – and if not, it's basketball," said Bill Price, a customer at Finch's in downtown Raleigh. "The governor's race is overshadowed."

"I didn't hear a thing about state politics," customer Charlie Eddins said.

Republican political consultant Ballard Everett said the presidential push favors the front-runners in the race for governor.

"Gubernatorial candidates are really going to have to think of something unique to be on the news the next six weeks," Everett said. "Those that are behind are really going to have a bad problem trying to get caught up."

An expected record turnout for the May 6 primary already has campaign officials for the two main Democratic candidates, Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and State Treasurer Richard Moore, preparing for variables such as large numbers of young voters.

On the Republican side, building name recognition remains the top priority.

"(Voters) either don't know who the candidates are, or they know one of them," said Robert Orr, a former state Supreme Court justice and a GOP gubernatorial candidate.

The lack of recognition makes winning over core Republicans even more important, Orr said.

Competition from the presidential candidates is even tougher on down-ballot races, such as those for lieutenant governor, treasurer and insurance commissioner, observers said.