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Other voices: Budd may be in trouble

North Carolina will see an off-off election year in 2018. There is no race for governor or U.S. Senate at the top of the ballot.

So one focus will be on U.S. House contests — which, thanks to partisan gerrymandering, usually aren’t very interesting. One exception next year could be the battle for the 13th District seat, currently held by first-term Republican Ted Budd of Davie County. The district contains about half of Greensboro and Guilford County (and half of Rowan County).

Democrat Kathy Manning of Greensboro has launched a campaign to challenge Budd. Like Budd in 2016, Manning is making her first run for public office.

Until 2016, the 13th District was anchored in the Triangle. In a court-ordered redistricting, it was shifted to the west. The timing forced an abbreviated primary campaign, attracting many candidates in both parties: 17 Republicans and five Democrats.

Budd, a farmer and businessman from a prominent family, drew support from a national political organization called Club for Growth Action, which spent nearly $500,000 on his behalf during the primary.

That was enough for Budd to top the field with 20 percent of the vote. State Rep. John Blust and Commissioner Hank Henning, both of Guilford County, were second and third, respectively.

In November 2016, Budd defeated Democrat Bruce Davis of High Point, a former Guilford County commissioner, 56 percent to 44 percent. It was the closest margin in any of North Carolina’s 13 congressional races.

Any Democrat would have a hard time winning. While Davis won 60 percent of the vote in Guilford County, he could not overcome strong Republican voting in Davidson, Davie, Iredell and Rowan counties.

Could that change in 2018? Maybe, depending on voter turnout, satisfaction with Budd’s record, the quality of the Democratic candidate, money and the Donald Trump effect.

Turnout likely will be much lower in 2018 than it was in 2016, a presidential election year in which state voters also saw races for governor and U.S. Senate on their ballots. So 2018 outcomes could turn on which party motivates more people to vote.

Budd supported Obamacare repeal and the GOP tax cuts. He split from most Republicans by opposing disaster-relief funding and, recently, joining just seven other House members in voting against renewing a federal grant program meant to rehabilitate brownfield industrial sites.

Manning’s abilities as a candidate aren’t known. A former immigration lawyer whose husband, Randall Kaplan, is a Greensboro developer, she is a philanthropist and successful fundraiser. She led efforts for the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro to secure private funding for a downtown performing arts center.

Budd must think she will be a formidable foe because he immediately put up a phony website, www.kathymanningforcongress.com, in which he linked her to “far-left Democrats including Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, John Edwards, and Barack Obama.”

Budd, however, will be linked to President Trump, who has inspired a heavier turnout of Democratic voters in many 2017 elections.

In Virginia, Democrats swept statewide races and picked up more than a dozen legislative seats. If that trend continues, it could produce a close contest in North Carolina’s 13th District.

Yet, it’s too early to say whether Manning or even Budd will be on next November’s ballot. Other Democrats and Republicans could join the race. But Greensboro and Guilford County voices deserve to be heard in the 13th District. Manning, although a political newcomer, can speak for issues of concern in this end of the district. If she can make connections with people in the more rural counties, she could be a real contender.

— The News & Record of Greensboro

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