The filing period for the May primaries wrapped up this week. WFDD's political reporter Paul Garber spoke with news director Emily McCord about what voters can expect when they head to the polls.
On the 2018 election landscape:
It's unusual in the sense that there are so many people running. We haven't had that in the past – for a long time – for decades. We've always had races where candidates ran unopposed. This is a much different landscape. It's exciting to watch and it is exciting to see it unfold. Let's not forget the Libertarians who have also made a strong showing this year. They've got more than 40 candidates out there on the ballot and so this is a strong year for them to get folks running too.
On potential election surprises:
Certainly Democrats are hoping for some. I mean, there's no doubt that there are some sacrificial lambs out there – in districts that, even though they're running, they're not going to be really competitive because of the way the districts are drawn – that's going to favor one candidate over the other. We can expect lots of landslides. It's interesting, though, that both parties are putting up a real fight at this time. I think that's a function of people getting upset over the whole redistricting process and this is like a giant civics lesson where people are coming out and saying: “This is how democracy should be. You should have choices.” And now we're going to have lots of them.
Whether or not they're realistic races, whether or not somebody really has a chance: who knows? But here's the thing: we have a governor who's a Democrat. But every time he deals with the legislature he's looking over there and he's seeing a veto proof majority. That really weakens his power. What the Democrats need to do is win six more state Senate seats or four more House seats. That will break up that super majority and give the governor a lot more power. That's really what they're looking for; they're not going to try and sweep. They know that's impossible. But what the Democrats want to do is shift that power a little bit by winning either those Senate seats or the House seats.
So “double-bunking” is when – in redrawing the lines you put incumbents together, and we've got a couple examples of that on the Republican side in our area. If we look at the 31st Senate District, the incumbent is Joyce Krawiec – Republican, of course – and now she's going to be in a primary against another incumbent, Dan Barrett. He's in the 34th District. He was appointed there in August when the previous senator retired. So he hasn't been in the Senate that long. But his district used to stretch down into Iredell County. Now he's looking at a district that's just Davie and parts of Forsyth – going off against the current incumbent Joyce Krawiec.
And also up in the mountain counties of northwest North Carolina, the redrawn 45th District puts Republicans Deanna Ballard and Shirley Randleman in the same district again. They've been “double-bunked,” so Randleman's district used to be a little bit different, now she has been drawn into a much different looking district and must face off against a Republican.
On Gerald Hege and the Davidson County Sheriff race:
Gerald Hege was a nationally-known sheriff. He had a real knack for getting in front of cameras and getting his message out where he was always talking about being tough on crime. He was popular in Davidson County and was reelected a couple of times with little trouble. But there were problems behind the cameras in the sheriff's department and ultimately Hege was removed from office and was convicted of a felony crime.
He ran again in 2010. At the time there was nothing to stop him from doing so. You could be a convicted felon and run for sheriff's office. Now that has changed. Our state constitution has changed largely because he ran in 2010 and people realized that that was probably a loophole that needed to be fixed. But he lost in a landslide; he didn't really come close. He has told election officials that his felony has been expunged. I have not checked that independently so I don't know. But that's what allowing him apparently to get on the ballot.
Now the interesting thing is when he won for the first time in the early 90s, Davidson County was much different than it is now. It was largely based on furniture manufacturing. Most of those jobs have gone away. They've shifted to more of a tourist and entertainment type economy and that's kind of what they're looking at for the future. Whether or not they're going to want such a firebrand in office who may raise a lot of controversy as he did his first time around, we'll see.
But the other part of it is: this is Trump's America now. You know some of these firebrands tend to do very well when they can get in front of the cameras again and get their message out and people accept it or not. So, it's going to be interesting to watch to see how that plays out.