Candidates Aplenty In 2012 (What’s Wrong With These People?)

Michael Bitzer

For all the public bashing and disapproval of our political institutions — Congress at a dismal average of 11 percent approval, while the North Carolina General Assembly is barely better at 16 percent — it would appear that anyone actively wanting to belong to these organizations should have their head examined.

But then came filing season, and what a difference a few weeks makes between derision and desiring.

There are the rare types of elections that see wholesale changes in our political institutions, and this is going to be one of those years. 

But the sheer number of people wanting “Honorable” in front of their name is surprising, to say the least, but that’s what you get when you open up a seat.

Take North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, for example.  After 17 years of being held by one person, 11 people have filed to be the Republican nominee.  They apparently saw a good thing, with a district that — had it existed in 2008—would have voted for John McCain with 54 percent of the vote.

Early favorites in the 9th have to go to the Meck-centric candidates— Jim Pendergraph, Andy Dulin, Robert Pittenger, and Edwin Peacock. But with so many candidates splitting South Mecklenburg into four camps, it may come down to Iredell and Union counties either making, or breaking, the two finalists going into a likely summer runoff.

Next-door, in the 8th Congressional District, five Republicans are vying for the coveted spot to go against one of the nation’s most endangered Democrats: Larry Kissell.  Vegas will be taking bets on the top two finishers there as well.

The congressional seats, along with the gubernatorial race, will attract much of the attention this spring and fall during the campaign seasons.  But the battle to control the state’s General Assembly will also have direct impacts on average North Carolinians’ lives, and many of these races will be decided come May.

Using some previous analysis of the likelihood of how the new legislative districts will vote (see here for the explanation and here for the most recent maps), I took the filing data for the seats and compared them within the categories of safe, lean, and toss-up districts.  Some interesting patterns emerged very quickly.

In the North Carolina State House, several seats will be won in the May 8th primary election, due to the lack of a major party opponent on the ballot.  In the below graph, come May we’ll already know half of the “safe Democratic seats,” while we’ll know nearly half of the “safe Republican seats” winners for the lower chamber of the General Assembly.


Proposed NC House of Representative Districts with (solid) and without (striped) a November General Election Opponent

In fact, several of them — including Mecklenburg’s new 103rd and 104th districts — are already done.  We know who the winners are now because canddiates Bill Brawley and Ruth Samuelson are not even challenged in their party’s primary, let alone in November.

Yes, yes, I know … there’s still voting in the primary election … details, details.

In the NC Senate, we’ll know half of the winners in all of the safe Republican and Democratic seats six months before the General Election. 

Proposed NC Senate Districts with (solid) and without (striped) a November General Election Opponent

 I guess with the various approval ratings (or lack thereof), the real mystery isn’t going to be who will win in November. Much of that guesswork is already decided (or going to be decided come May 8th).  The real mystery this election season could be, why do these folks want the job in the first place?


1 Comment

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One response to “Candidates Aplenty In 2012 (What’s Wrong With These People?)

  1. Hi Michael,
    The other point these numbers show me:
    In an attention economy, the volume of candidates matters.

    As the presidential candidates start competing for our attention in North Carolina, I wonder about our capacity to keep up, and the voters appetite for the volume of political stuff.

    Certainly it will get easier after the primary, and I used to worry just about the journalists’ capacity. Now I’m thinking more broadly: the voters’ capacity will certainly be strained in the next two months.

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