Good news/bad news: A tiny fraction of voters will make big decisions Tuesday on candidates for Congress, the state legislature and other important offices. That means your vote counts more than ever – without waiting in long lines!
There are five statewide races on Tuesday’s primary runoff ballot, plus congressional, legislative and local races involving both parties. In some, voters are essentially electing a person to office, because the candidate faces no opposition in November or because the district is tilted so heavily toward one party or the other.
It’s hard to get juiced about voting in mid-July. Many of us are more focused on how to stay cool. The 2008 midsummer runoff attracted less than 2 percent of voters. The 2010 runoff was a bigger draw: About 96 percent of voters stayed home.
We know Tuesday’s runoff isn’t the top priority for most of you. But with people dying in Egypt and Syria over the right to free democratic elections, you might feel some fulfillment by taking the 90 seconds needed to cast a ballot for Congress and other seats.
Here’s how we see some of the races. We’ll weigh in on four others on Monday:
Congress, District 9
The highest profile race in the Charlotte area is also the most dispiriting. Jim Pendergraph and Robert Pittenger have done all they can to cement people’s disgust for politics in 21st century America. We cannot endorse either.
The two Republicans are vying to face Democrat Jennifer Roberts in the fall for retiring Rep. Sue Myrick’s seat. Their campaign has been nothing but distorted attacks and vacuous stances on the issues.
Pendergraph, a Mecklenburg County commissioner and former sheriff, has shown that his understanding of national affairs is rudimentary at best. He has flip-flopped on the issues and misled the public. One example: He told four members of the Observer editorial board that the nation needed comprehensive immigration reform that made allowances for illegal immigrants already here. Then he told the public he never said that. One gets the sense that as a congressman, Pendergraph would do the will of whoever got to him last.
Pittenger, a real estate investor and former state senator, has run a campaign in which he comes across as a middle school bully. He has spent most of his time raising dubious questions about Pendergraph and very little spelling out how he would get America back on track. He never gave a sound explanation for why it was OK for him to vote for a bill in the state Senate that raised the value of land he owned. We worry that in Congress, Pittenger would put himself first, his party second and his constituents third.
Congress, District 8
Despite the TV ads and personal barbs exchanged during their recent debate, Richard Hudson and Scott Keadle are cut from mostly the same conservative cloth. On the issues, they agree: Obama’s health-care law? They’d both vote to repeal it. On immigration, the two Republicans embrace a get-tough stance. And both got caught up in the foolishness of challenging President Obama’s birthplace, which both have since backed away from.
So it is around the edges that voters should look in making this choice. And the edges are sharp. Money has been pouring into this race from outside special interest groups, especially to Keadle – a dentist and former Iredell County commissioner in whom tea party activists see an opportunity to broaden their power.
We endorsed Hudson, a former congressional aide to Robin Hayes, in the May primary, where he came in first among five candidates. We still think he’s the better choice. Unlike Keadle, Hudson lives in the district, has deep ties to the area and plans to focus on district needs and not primarily party ideology. He owns a marketing company and his past Washington experience is an asset that, as he says, will enable him to “take conservative ideas and turn them into conservative policies.”
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Neither John Tedesco nor Richard Alexander are compelling choices for the Republican nomination for school superintendent. Neither has offered a thoughtful plan to help improve the state’s public schools. But special education teacher Alexander’s call to eliminate the federal Department of Education and most of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction is too absurd for him to be taken seriously for this job.
We have our reservations about Tedesco, whose stint on the Wake County school board has been problematic and who fixates on cuts and other ideas that could harm, not help, public schools. But he has held leadership roles in education as vice chair of the Wake board. He came in first in the May primary. He’s the better choice in this runoff.
Former state House co-speaker Richard Morgan and retired insurance executive Mike Causey face off for the chance to oppose Democratic incumbent Wayne Goodwin in the fall. Morgan narrowly led the May 8 primary with 37 percent to Causey’s 35.
Both Republicans would bring significant insurance experience to the job. Causey, however, is more enthusiastic and precise about how he might improve North Carolina’s insurance structure, including examining the N.C. Rate Bureau and its potential impact on competition in the state. Morgan, who has unsuccessfully run for state Senate and state schools superintendent, seems more interested in getting back to any public service job in Raleigh. Causey gets our nod.
Secretary of State
The Secretary of State’s mission in North Carolina is to promote economic growth while protecting consumers and businesses from fraud and misrepresentation. Republicans should feel very comfortable with both candidates in Tuesday’s runoff – architect and former Wake County commissioner Kenn Gardner and farmer and Chowan County commissioner Ed Goodwin. The winner faces incumbent Democrat Elaine Marshall.
Both candidates promise to work hard to meet business owners around the state, and both have a history of building such relationships. Both vow to comb through regulations to eliminate unproductive and redundant rules, and both believe that while incentives can play a role in luring companies to North Carolina, they shouldn’t be the first tool used.
We give a slight nod to Gardner, who also wants to examine streamlining how the Secretary of State’s office interacts with new businesses, and has a history as a Wake commissioner of targeting inefficiencies in public departments.
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