Only one issue resonates around state
In little more than three weeks voters will cast ballots in the May 6th Primary Elections. Despite a lot of noise from independent expenditure groups this has been a fairly quiet election cycle. What is the hot issue right now?
Republicans and right-leaning groups have attempted to make Obamacare the issue and, while some polls show the president’s healthcare reform plan is more unpopular in North Carolina than in many states, this isn’t compelling enough to turn out the vote.
Democrats aren’t doing much better. Their strategy has been to try to portray the Koch brothers as evil villains who represent all that’s wrong with politics, but that’s not a winning hand either.
Now the Democrats are shifting their focus to running against the Republican-led legislature and administration. Public opinion polls consistently show voters aren’t happy with incumbents in Raleigh, but this strategy also hasn’t gained much traction.
The No. 1 issue today, as it has been for the past two election cycles, is the economy. People vote their pocketbooks. In 2010, Republicans successfully used jobs and the economy to run and win against a legislature controlled by Democrats. Pat McCrory became governor following that same strategy.
North Carolina’s unemployment rate has dropped from 9.4 percent when McCrory took office to 6.7 percent in February 2014. One would think this was such great news that Republicans would be standing on rooftops shouting for all to hear.
McCrory has been touting what he calls the “Carolina Comeback,” but his message isn’t scoring points, especially in rural sections of the state. While it is true 32,000 more people have jobs than was the case in July 2013, as many as 64,000 have dropped out of the workforce. Most North Carolinians have family members or friends who haven’t been able to find full-time work; many are working two or more part-time jobs to make ends meet.
Further evidence of a weak economy was contained in this week’s announcement by the Department of Revenue that personal income tax withholdings have shown a recession-like drop since the beginning of the year. Forecasts now indicate personal income tax collections will trail forecasts by more than $220 million. Some of this reflects the impact of last year’s tax reform changes, but there is ample evidence of weak salary and wage growth in our state.
So with just a few days to go before the election, here is where we stand. People are thoroughly disgusted and turned off by all the negative TV ads.
Voters don’t trust politicians and have lost faith in the political process.
Look for this to translate to a very low turnout on May 6. Some knowledgeable experts are predicting no more than 18 to 20 percent of registered voters will vote. Democrats will attempt to blame the low turnout on the big changes Republicans made to voting laws, and they might have some effect, but the truth is that nobody has given voters sufficient reason to vote.
Voters respond to candidates with big ideas, candidates who can paint a picture of the future and tell how to get there. The big issue in this election is that we haven’t seen those candidates who have that vision and compel us to get out to vote.
Tom Campbell, former assistant state treasurer, is creator/host of NC SPIN, a weekly discussion of issues airing Sundays at 5:30 a.m. on WFMY-TV and Sundays at 9 a.m. on Time Warner Cable Channel 69 and Channel 65. Contact him at www.ncspin.com.