North Carolina’s 2014 campaign season officially began Monday as candidates swarmed election offices to officially file for races from U.S. Senate to judicial and legislative seats.
Dozens of candidates, along with campaign aides and supporters, arrived at the State Board of Elections office in Raleigh at midday to fill out candidacy sheets, pay filing fees and speak their names into an audio recorder as their identifier for disabled voters.
The filing period, which ends at noon Feb. 28, also gives candidates a clean slate and injection of optimism heading into some grueling months of fundraising and campaigning.
The primary is May 6, with runoffs on July 15, or on June 24 if the only runoffs involve nominations for state office. The general election in Nov. 4.
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“It’s important to be here when it opens up,” said Donald Buie, an attorney running for District Court judge in Forsyth County. Buie arrived more than two hours before the candidacy period opened and was the first candidate called to the front of the state elections boardroom to file. Buie lost two years ago in a similar race in Guilford County.
“Last time was more of a learning experience,” Buie said. “I learned a lot of things last time, but I think I have a good chance this time.”
More than 70 people had signed up to become official candidates in Raleigh by 1:30 p.m.
It was also time to celebrate an important milestone for people who have already been running for months. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Harris addressed about a dozen supporters who came with him to cheer him on after speaking with media outlets. Similar scenes played out at local election offices in all 100 counties for General Assembly seats and local races.
“This is an incredible day,” Harris told his group. “You’ve been a part of it from day one.”
Another U.S. Senate candidate for the GOP, Ted Alexander, said he came on the first day in part because of uncertain winter weather later in the week. Arriving early on the first day also gave the former Shelby mayor, a relative newcomer to the Senate race, some publicity.
“We’re just going to work as hard as we can for the coming several months to keep getting the word out,” Alexander said.
Those who didn’t get there before noon to sign up waited at least an hour to turn in their paperwork to a board worker. That left Democratic U.S. Rep. David Price, seeking his 14th term in office, anxious about missing an afternoon flight to Washington.
Two Democratic candidates for Mel Watt’s vacant congressional seat filed for both the special election to serve out his term and for the next two-year term starting in January 2015. They were state Sen. Malcolm Graham of Charlotte and state Rep. Alma Adams of Greensboro.
Early congressional filers for other open seats were Democrat Laura Fjeld and Republican Mike Causey in the 6th District and Democrat Jonathan Barfield Jr. of Wilmington in the 7th District. U.S. Reps. Howard Coble and Mike McIntyre aren’t seeking re-election for the 6th and 7th districts respectively.
Other candidates who filed Monday in Raleigh include Court of Appeals Judges Mark Davis and Donna Stroud, who are both seeking eight-year terms, and appeals Judge Robert Hunter of Morehead City, who is running for the state Supreme Court. Special Superior Court Judge Lucy Inman also filed to run for the Court of Appeals.
Three of the 15 Court of Appeals seats and four of the seven Supreme Court positions are up for re-election in November in the officially nonpartisan races. The Supreme Court seats include the one held by Chief Justice Sarah Parker. She cannot seek re-election because she will meet the mandatory retirement age of 72 in August. Current Associate Justice Mark Martin plans to run for chief justice.
In addition to the U.S Senate race, where Democrat Kay Hagan is seeking re-election, all 13 U.S. House seats and 170 General Assembly seats are up for re-election. Republicans currently hold a 9-4 advantage in the U.S. House delegation and margins of 77-43 in the state House and 33-17 in the state Senate.