The future of a possible chicken processing plant and a constitutional amendment to define marriage are just two of the issues that will lure Twin Counties voters to the polls Tuesday.
A myriad of state, county and local offices are up for grabs.
For the most part, outcomes in the primary election will set the stage for the general election, when candidates will face off against challengers from other parties. However, some nonpartisan races and races with candidates from just one party will be decided during the primary election.
This is the first major election since Republicans gained a majority of seats in the N.C. House and the N.C. Senate. It’s also the first major election
since the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly redrew district lines.
Early on, officials expected the presidential primary would drive throngs of Republican voters to the polls. That’s not the case anymore since Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have departed from the race and Mitt Romney is the Republican party’s presumptive nominee.
Still, there are plenty of races and reasons drawing people to the polls.
Among those is the governor’s race that no one anticipated just four months ago. Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s decision not to seek re-election left the seat wide open. Before Perdue’s announcement in late January, many people expected the governor’s race would be a re-match of the 2008 contest between Perdue and Republican candidate Pat McCrory.
Instead, six candidates are now vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination. Six Republicans, including McCrory, are competing for the GOP nomination.
Perdue’s announcement created a lot of buzz earlier this year, but the Democratic primary for governor has been relatively quiet this year compared to other years, said Ran Coble, executive director of the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.
“It hasn’t caught fire the way it normally would in North Carolina,” Coble said.
The candidates didn’t have much time to raise money and gain exposure, he said.
Another factor drawing people to the polls is a proposed constitutional amendment that would add a section to the state’s constitution stating that marriage between a man and a woman is the only “domestic legal union” that will be valid or recognized in North Carolina.
“That’s really driving a lot of turnout,” said Bryan Warner, director of communications at the N.C. Center for Voter Education.
State law already states that same-sex marriage is not valid in North Carolina. If the proposed constitutional amendment passes, it could not be changed or reversed without another vote of the people.
Polls show the marriage amendment is likely to pass, said Mitch Kokai, director of communications for the John Locke Foundation, a conservative-leaning political think tank based in Raleigh.
The margin could change if Republicans have a slightly depressed voter turnout because the GOP presidential primary essentially has been decided and if Democrats have an increased voter turnout because of the primary race to determine the party’s gubernatorial nomination, Kokai said. However, he said support and opposition of the amendment does not break down based on party lines.
Polls show that Republicans overwhelmingly support the amendment, but Democrats are divided on the issue, Kokai said. Therefore, he said, having an increased Democratic voter turnout might not make much of a difference at all.
“It’s hard to say what the overall impact would be,” Kokai said.
The John Locke Foundation does not take a stand on the marriage amendment issue, Kokai said, although the organization’s president, John Hood, has said he opposes the amendment.
The wording of the amendment has caused some confusion for voters. People who vote for the amendment are voting in favor of the addition to the state constitution. People who vote against the measure are opposing the addition of that amendment to the constitution.
EDGECOMBE COUNTY RACES
A number of local offices are shaping up to have exciting primary races.
Rocky Mount’s former police chief John H. Manley Jr. is challenging incumbent Andre’ Knight for the Ward 1 seat on the Rocky Mount City Council.
Three seats on the Tarboro Town Council and two seats on the Edgecombe County Board of Education have contested races. Register of Deeds Robin Carpenter is being challenged by fellow Democrat Barbara Ann Cole.
Several veteran lawmakers who represent Edgecombe County are facing challengers in the Democratic primary. Rocky Mount attorney William Solomon Jr. is challenging N.C. Rep. Joe Tolson, a retired educator from Pinetops, for the District 23 seat.
Lifelong educator Florence Arnold Armstrong of Tarboro is vying against N.C. Sen. Clark Jenkins for the District 3 seat.
Those legislative races will be decided in the primary because no Republicans have filed to run for those offices.
NASH COUNTY RACES
N.C. Rep. Angela R. Bryant also is facing a challenger in the Democratic primary. William Duke Hancock II, a former U.S. Marine from Bailey, is competing for the District 7 seat. No Republicans have filed to run for that seat.
Dennis Nielsen, a gun shop owner and Nashville resident, is challenging N.C. Sen. Buck Newton for the District 11 seat. The winner of that race will face Democrat Clarence A. Bender in the general election.
Four people are competing for the District 4 seat on the Nash County Board of Commissioners.
Lisa Stone Barnes is challenging incumbent Danny Tyson in the Republican primary.
Bert Daniel and Gerald “Jerry” Harris are competing in the Democratic primary.
A proposed Sanderson Farms chicken processing plant has been a key issue in that district. Barnes and Daniel are opposed to the proposed plant, while Tyson and Harris are in favor of it.
Some local residents have been outspoken about their opposition to the proposed chicken plant, which they fear would reduce home values and harm the environment.
Nash County voters also will be asked to vote whether to approve a $9.5 million bond referendum to help Nash Community College build a new Continuing Education and Public Services Training Facility that would help the school accommodate growing enrollment and provide continued training to first responders.
Voters might notice some changes because of redistricting.
Nash County no longer is included in N.C. House District 49, and Edgecombe County no longer is included in N.C. House District 24.
Both counties now are part of Congressional District 13, in addition to District 1. In the past, Nash County was part of Congressional Districts 1, 2 and 3, and Edgecombe County was contained in District 1.
Dan Whittacre is challenging U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield in the Democratic primary for the District 1 seat. The primary winner will face Republican Pete DiLauro and Libertarian Darryl Holloman in the general election.
In the 13th Congressional District, George Holding, Bill Randall and Paul Y. Coble are competing in the Republican primary. The winner will face Democrat Bernard A. Holliday in the general election. Democrat Charles Malone has dropped out of the race, but his name still will be on the Democratic primary ballot.
With redistricting, Nash County added an N.C. Senate District. The county is now part of Districts 11 and 4. Twin Counties elections officials have worked to eliminate confusion. Earlier this spring, staff at the Boards of Elections in both counties mailed voter information cards to all registered voters to inform them of their electoral districts.
Voters can view a sample of their ballot before they go to the polls by visiting the N.C. State Board of Elections’ website.
Come November, it will be interesting to see if the new district lines help Republicans, Kokai said. After such a landslide victory in 2010, conventional wisdom would suggest Republicans would lose a few seats this year, Kokai said. But redistricting throws a wrench in that equation, Kokai said. He said Republicans are likely to maintain a majority in both chambers of the N.C. General Assembly this year.
Redistricting will play a role legislative turnover this year, Coble said.
At least 49 of the N.C. General Assembly’s 170 members will not return in 2013, according to a study by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research. The study listed four main reasons for the high turnover rate: Retirement, acceptance of another job, a decision to run for a higher office and redistricting.
A number of lawmakers were drawn into districts with other lawmakers, something called “double bunking,” Coble said. Some lawmakers who were double bunked chose not to run for re-election. Others will compete against each other in the primary.
Coble said Republican N.C. Rep. Glen Bradley was drawn into the same district as N.C. Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash. Bradley is running for a seat in the N.C. Senate this year.
Voters might discover there are many interesting races they don’t know much about, Kokai said.
A variety of positions, including a number of council of state offices, have primary races. Those races haven’t received as much exposure as other high-profile issues and races, including the proposed marriage amendment, the governor’s race and several highly-contested congressional races, Kokai said.
Voters often recognize the council of state races are important, but they don’t know a lot about the candidates, Kokai said. He said that can cause voter frustration at the polls. Kokai encouraged people to seek out a trusted source of information and learn about candidates they aren’t familiar with before going to vote.
“Look at the sample ballot,” Kokai said. “If you don’t know who you would support, see if you can find out about the candidates in that race.”
Warner said studies have shown the main reason why people don’t go to the polls is because they feel they don’t know enough about the candidates.
“It’s really up to us to take our jobs as voters seriously, and to take the time to go out and vote,” he said.