For a baseball fan, and especially for a Chicago Cubs fan, Opening Day always has a certain magic.
As surely as winter gives way to spring, the new season stretches ahead, full of promise. Hope and optimism abound. Everybody’s undefeated.
Hope springs, if not eternal, at least until the ivy comes in on the outfield wall.
So it is on Opening Day of political season.
North Carolina’s new season started Tuesday at noon with hundreds of candidates and their teams gathered in a hundred county election boards across the state.
In Mecklenburg County, dozens of people flocked into the elections office for the start. Some brought signs and balloons. Others brought their families. Republicans chatted with Democrats. Erstwhile and future adversaries greeted each other like old friends.
“As of today, everybody has the same number of votes, and everybody has as good a chance as anybody,” said Michael Dickerson, Mecklenburg’s elections director.
“The enthusiasm that you see when they walk in, with the excitement and with the electricity that they bring, is truly great to see.”
In a few weeks, Tuesday’s festive atmosphere will be long forgotten, buried in a barrage of negative advertising and partisan acrimony ahead of the March 15 primaries. With a contested presidential race and what could be heated primaries for governor, General Assembly and other offices, the sludge could get deep.
Along the way, North Carolina voters will find themselves on the receiving end of millions of dollars’ worth of candidate attacks.
But all that’s for deeper in the season. Opening Day is all about hope.
“Everybody’s got a smile on their face,” said Kenny Smith, a Charlotte City Council member. He came to the board to support his friend, state Rep. Dan Bishop, a Republican running for the Senate.
Hope is a candidate like Democrat Chris Rey, the mayor of a small town in Cumberland County who wants to jump to the U.S. Senate. Or Deborah Ross, a former state legislator from Raleigh who is running for the same nomination to challenge two-term incumbent GOP Sen. Richard Burr.
Hope is a candidate like Democrat Nasif Majid, going for a rematch against incumbent Sen. Joyce Waddell in a primary in northeast Mecklenburg.
Hope is any challenger who runs in this earlier-than-usual election season, facing not only well-heeled incumbents but an electorate that won’t start tuning in at least until after the holidays.
But that doesn’t seem to be deterring anybody.
More than 600 people filed for office Tuesday across North Carolina. The State Board of Elections estimates that perhaps 2,500 people will have done so by the time filing closes Dec. 21.
For some, this may be the high point of a campaign that goes south long before the birds fly north.
This incredible season aside, the Cubs often have fallen out of the race by early summer, done in by afternoon games and mediocre arms.
But on Opening Day, they look like champs.