When South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn announced he was endorsing Joe Biden in that state’s primary on Saturday, Biden’s 30-point victory demonstrated how quickly political fortunes can change. North Carolina was evidence of those changes, as were most Super Tuesday states.
The State Board of Elections reported that some 540,000 North Carolinians cast ballots in early, one-stop voting by midnight Feb. 27. When early voting ended Saturday, more than 793,000 (about 11%) of the state’s 6.9 million registered voters had cast ballots. Likely more than a few of them later wished they hadn’t.
Many prominent North Carolina Democrats, worried how a Bernie Sanders nomination would impact the elections, had announced their support for former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. They included a former governor, big city mayors, the two Democratic leaders of the legislature and scores of prominent Democrats.
It wasn’t that they loved the billionaire who spent $15 million in advertising in our state. Many favored Joe Biden, but his lackluster debate performances, lack of money and poor campaign organization had them worried. They were convinced a Sanders nomination would cause a “red tide” tsunami victory for Republicans and they wanted to pick someone who could defeat Trump.
Clyburn’s endorsement, followed by the withdrawal and endorsements from Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, brought a quick and momentous change - “Joe-mentum,” as Clyburn called it. On Election Day, Mike Silver’s 538 blogsite reflected the rapid movement. The respected blogger listed five possible scenarios for Super Tuesday, with all but one predicting Biden would win more convention delegates than Sanders.
Pollsters and pundits had labeled our state a tossup in the Democratic presidential primary, but large crowds led by a groundswell of African American voters created long lines at many polling sites. Biden won by 19 percentage points, garnering an initial 35 of our 110 convention delegates to Sanders’ 15. Bloomberg didn’t even get the requisite 15% needed to be eligible to receive delegates and halted his campaign the next day. Sen. Elizabeth Warren didn’t get to 15% either.
Space restrictions won’t permit a full rundown of races and candidates, but let’s note a few of interest.
Runoff elections are likely for the Democratic lieutenant governor’s race. Yvonne Lewis Holley held a slight lead over Sen. Terry Van Duyn, but not the needed 30% threshold needed to win outright. In the 11th District race for Congress, vacant because of the departure of Mark Meadows, neither Republican Lynda Bennett of Maggie Valley, nor second place finisher Madison Cawthorn of Hendersonville, took the nomination outright. Jen Mangrum, who ran against Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, won the Democratic nod from a field of five.
In the superintendent of public instruction race, Catherine Truitt, sometimes-controversial former education advisor to Gov. McCrory, bested House Education Committee Chairman Craig Horn for the GOP nomination.
With nine Republicans vying for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor, we were a bit surprised that Greensboro’s Mark Robinson won easily. It was also notable that Asheville’s Moe Davis won the Democratic nomination over five competitors in the 11th District congressional primary.
Democrat Jenna Wadsworth ensured there wouldn’t be a rematch between ag commissioner Steve Troxler and Walter Smith. Neither will Mike LaPaglia get a repeat with Elaine Marshall, as E.C. Sykes won the Republican secretary of state nomination.
The heated Republican contest for attorney general didn’t live up to expectations, as District Attorney Jim O’Neill took the nomination. The vacant 6th Congressional District Democratic contest had five candidates, with Greensboro’s Kathy Manning handily winning.
The stage is set for the Nov. 3 election. Candidates will have an inordinate period between now and then to raise money and campaign, knowing that national races will grab most of the attention and TV airtime. Everyone will remember what a difference a day can make when it comes to elections.
Tom Campbell is former assistant North Carolina State Treasurer and is creator/host of NC SPIN.