The fliers that have landed in the mailboxes of 88th N.C. House District constituents in recent weeks illustrate just how competitive this year's election is.
In the slick pieces of literature, the candidates portray their opponent as bad for the district, someone who would further hurt the region's economy or who would be soft on illegal immigration – two of many constituents' biggest concerns.
The 88th District covers Hickory and Alexander County, an area that has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs and seen a steady wave of immigrants from Latin America and Asia.
Combined with TV ads and other methods, the direct-mail fliers that address those issues and others have made the contest strikingly aggressive – and expensive.
Incumbent Ray Warren, a Democrat, has spent about $200,000 on his campaign, half of that paid by the state party. His opponent, Republican Mark Hollo, who Warren defeated to win the seat two years ago, has spent about $120,000.
Hollo wants his old seat back and said he'd do a better job than Warren at reviving the economy.
Warren said he believes he's been a more effective legislator than Hollo was. He said he has taken advantage of belonging to the party in power in the House to bring jobs to the district.
The candidates give conflicting information as they try to portray each other as lax or irresponsible on the key issues.
Hollo said Warren voted for a state budget that “raised taxes and fees by over $700 million.” Warren said the budget included no tax increases and that the majority of House Republicans voted for it.
Warren, through a N.C. Democratic Party flier, said Hollo voted against job-recruitment initiatives for the district by voting against the state budget during his term. Hollo said he did so because the budget included tax and fee increases.
Both men say they would focus on the economy in the new term.
Hollo said he would work to lower personal and business taxes and to cut waste in the budget. “I believe money belongs in people's pockets,” he said. “I think people know how to spend their money better than Raleigh.”
Warren said he would continue to get government grants for the area to help existing businesses and recruit new ones and to help community colleges train workers.
“He's talked about tax increases and the fact that the unemployment rate's going up,” Warren said, referring to Hollo. “We passed a budget without tax increases, and I don't think anybody in the world doesn't know the unemployment rate's going up. That's obviously the reason we need to create jobs. Job recruitment and retention will be the priority.”