Local News

GOP Gubernatorial Race Could Be Costly To Taxpayers

Posted June 29, 2004 8:30 a.m. EDT

— There are six Republican candidates for governor, but only one nomination. In less than a month, voters will whittle down the list.

Many believe it will take more than one primary to choose the GOP candidate, preparing for the prospect of a statewide run-off.

We have seen the the candidates' faces and heard their stands.

On July 20, the field likely will shrink to two.

WRAL's Voter's Voice poll from earlier this month shows Republican contender Richard Vinroot with 33 percent of the likely primary vote, followed by Bill Cobey with 23 percent and Patrick Ballantine with 15.

Unless one of the Republicans rises to 40 percent in the polls, the primary is not a done deal. The top two finishers probably will meet in an Aug. 17 runoff.

The minimum cost to taxpayers for a runoff would be more than $1 million.

"Should I finish second, I will definitely call for a runoff," said Cobey, the former state GOP chairman.

Cobey believes a second primary would pay off for the newcomer candidates, but not for Vinroot.

"The rule of thumb would be that the challengers get two votes for every vote the incumbent gets," Cobey said, "and he is the incumbent candidate since he's been running for nine years."

In 1990, little-known Brunswick County District Attorney Mike Easley ruffled some feathers when he called for a runoff in the United States Senate race against frontrunner Harvey Gantt. Gantt won, but the move earned Easley powerful political name recognition.

Fourteen years later, Easley is the man the Republicans are scrambling to beat.

WRAL's latest poll showed 18 percent of likely Republican voters still are undecided. So it still is possible any of the top candidates could reach the needed 40 percent in the primary.

Whether it is the July primary or an August runoff, voter turnout is expected to be low. The delayed dates conflict with many summer vacations.

People have more than one date to vote. One-stop absentee voting kicks off Thursday and runs through July 17. Contact your

county board of elections

for early voting times and locations.