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Hard to gauge voters’ interest in local primary races

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
Dick Huffman is an ardent Rowan County Democrat who’s keeping a close eye on the Hillary Clinton/ Barack Obama race as Tuesday’s primary nears.
In fact, Huffman said the only problem with that presidential runoff is that so many other races across the county and state are being largely ignored.
“There’s the presidential race and a fair amount of interest in the governor’s race,” Huffman said. “After that, there’s going to be a huge fall-off.”
That, Huffman and other local election followers agree, is a pity.
“We’re talking millions versus thousands,” Huffman said of the number of voters who decide national elections as opposed to those who decide local runoffs. “Your voice goes a lot further in local elections.”
Whether many local voters realize as much remains to be seen.
Nancy Evans, director of the Rowan County Board of Elections, said state officials are predicting that anywhere from 46 to 48 percent of North Carolina’s registered voters will make it to the polls for Tuesday’s primary.
Evans said she’s not sure she would buy those figures.
“I don’t think it’ll be that high,” she said. “I’m expecting something more like the upper 30s or low 40s.”
Still, Evans said early voting turnout has been brisk (“But not as high as it’ll be for the general election in the fall,” she said), so there’s a possibility that Tuesday’s voter turnout will surprise people.
Most members of a readers’ panel made up of Post subscribers said they’re looking for turnout for Tuesday’s primary to be fairly high.
They agreed that the presidential primary between Democratic challengers Clinton and Obama is generating considerable interest as the candidates have been stumping through North Carolina in recent weeks. The race for the governor’s office has also generated considerable interest among both Democratic and Republican voters.
Here’s a sampling of election comments from members of the Post’s readers’ poll:
– From Jan McCanless:
“This will be an especially historic election, we’ll be electing either the first black president, the first female, or the oldest, and, we need to weigh very carefully where all of them stand on the issues. Every vote counts!”
– From Evelyn McMahon:
“This year’s presidential race is by far the most energized one I’ve seen in my life time. And when votes are tabulated in North Carolina next Tuesday, we may have chosen the next president of the United States of America, at this crucial time, when all areas of life are exposed and at risk of diminishing; jobs, education, health care, housing and more. Regardless of race, gender, economic or social position, the stakes are high for everyone.”
– From Daniel Overcash:
“I think people will be mainly out for the presidential election, but all politics are local and the Rowan County commissioners race I believe will draw a lot of voters. Because people are really happy or really upset with the current commissioners.
“In my mind the issues are the economy and gas prices. I believe that people think(and rightfully so) that they are NOT better off then they were four years ago.”
– From Kirkley Russell:
“I think the presidential race will have a large impact on the primary vote. I could see this primary producing record turnout throughout the state. This is true because the Democrats and Republicans have down the line primaries as well.
“I think the county commissioners races are first and foremost on the local voters minds. The recent annexation attempts by the city of Salisbury have allowed everyone in the county to take notice to the county commissioners and how important they can be.
“The economy would have to be the primary issue on people’s minds this year. Prices are skyrocketing for everyday goods, not just gasoline, and people are starting to feel the pinch. Job losses and cutbacks at places like Freightliner, Philip Morris, and Food Lion will continue to have a serious impact on our local economy and workforce.”
– From Michael Young:
“Someone said good government does not make headlines. I sense after four years of bad news, people are fatigued, angry and disgusted … No longer apathetic, folks want to vote and will vote for change.
“On the local level, driven primarily by the antics of the current county commission, we have a refreshing sleight of smart, willing Democrats and Republicans running. Being a big election year, I think we will see new faces on our county commission in the fall and an influx of new voters. It is too bad that all of the seats are not up for re-election.
– From Carrie Grubbs:
“I think Democrats will vote in significant numbers, but not Republicans. Because there is basically an uncontested presidential race for Republicans, there is not a lot of motivation for Republicans to get out and vote. It seems that Republicans are having a difficult time getting excited about the candidate they do have.
“The issue foremost on voters’ minds is rising prices. Voters are looking for someone who has a solution to rising fuel and food prices. I think that most voters feel that the rising prices have to stop soon.
“There does not seem to be much interest in local races. I think in the future anyone who takes a strong stand against forced annexation will be a popular candidate. There does seem to be significant interest in the governor’s race. Obviously Republicans would like to have a governor that does not hand an endorsement to Hillary Clinton.”
– From Mac Butner:
“The presidential primary will affect the Democratic primary and is the driving force with an increased turnout, with the Democratic governor’s race not far behind. Bev Perdue should win in Rowan. This will help Raymond Coltrain in his quest as one of two Democrat county commissioner nominees.
“Since I think the Democratic turnout will be more liberal and female than normal, I would not be surprised if Laura Lyerly would surprise everyone with a strong showing and possibly win. She is the only new and refreshing face in either party and that seems to be the theme election.
“Ralph Walton is a well-respected name in Democratic circles who has certainly paid his dues in the political trenches and should not be underestimated.
“On the GOP side, the commissioners race is the driving force, but overall it has been pretty quiet.”
– From Nancy Patterson:
“I believe that the Democratic race has substantially increased interest in the election. As usual local issues are not as paramount a concern for most voters in a presidential election year. To me the primary concern of most people is the economy at this moment, particularly rising gas and food prices.”
– From Scott Wilson:
“I think the presidential race will have a major impact on several races. Especially the statewide races. As candidates endorse the various candidates for president, they will either endear or alienate supporters. I don’t think that basing your vote for state offices upon who they support for president is in the best interests for North Carolinians however. Voters need to be be independent thinkers on the issues that impact the constituents for which the candidate is running.”
Here’s a breakdown of elections for each party.
Democratic Party races
– President
– Governor
– Commissioner of insurance
– Treasurer
– U.S. Senate
– Lieutenant governor
– Commissioner of Labor
– County commissioner
– U.S. Congress District 6
– Auditor
– Superintendent of Public Instruction
Republican Party races
– President
– U.S. Senate
– Governor
– Lieutenant governor
– Superintendent of Public Instruction
– N.C. State House District 76
– County commissioner
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@salisburypost.com.

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