No one predicted that redistricting of the state's Senate and House districts would have taken this much time or litigation. .
The challengers have been able to take advantage of an unprecedented amount of additional time to campaign and closely monitor incumbents for issues to attack them on. The extension of time for challengers has provided a wealth of crucial votes by the incumbents that challengers are salivating over.
Incumbents usually put off votes on controversial items until after May 7 and normally deal with tough budget items and board re-appointments in June. But this year, the election delays have forced incumbents to cast their votes for things that they would rather have taken a position on after the election.
Remember, in Robeson County there are no local competitive general elections because of the absense of Republicans on the ballot, so things are over for most all the candidates running for a county office.
So now that the candidates have roughly 60 days to get the message out, things should get rough and tumble over the next few weeks. For some school board candidates, the election will be a referendum on whether or not they support the superintendent. County commissioners may get nailed over board re-appointments, or whether or not they should have raised taxes vs. dipping into reserves. Naturally, there will be a few more murders around the county as the clock ticks, so sheriff challengers will have a few more crime-related issues to try to pin on the sheriff.
With a date set for the primaries, one more monkey wrench may get thrown in the works. It looks like a non-binding lottery referendum is a dead duck, unless the vote is moved from the November ballot to the September primary one. That is the only way a Republican could be rounded up to vote for lottery, and a lottery referendum for September will drive a large number of people to the polls.
And that is usually bad for incumbents.
State House members adjourned last week lacking the 61 votes to get a lottery referendum placed on the November ballot. If the issue dies this week, then it will be a crushing blow to Gov. Mike Easley and his administration.
With so much political capital at stake, Easley will surely have to walk the halls the next few days if he hopes to get his beloved lottery through the General Assembly. Easley's main focus during his campaign and while he has been in office has been a lottery for North Carolina. But his tack of sending his political advisors with the governor's phone number in hand isn't cutting it.
Members who are used to former Gov. Jim Hunt's style of personal contact will need more than a call. Many will want a personal visit from the governor to ring their office bell with many gifts of pork before they vote for his referendum.
Many oldtimers in the legislature have been critical of the lack of Easley's face-to-face in this hand-to-hand combat to get lottery through the state House. One member put it best, saying if Hunt were here, the lottery bill would have already been passed.
"Hunt would promise you a road or two, he just wouldn't tell you when you'd get it paved."
Two points for Congressman Mike McIntyre for his courageous vote last week over a simple issue to protect airline passengers and crew. The legislation turned partisan among the state's congressional delegation, but despite that, McIntyre voted with many other Democrats to allow a qualified gun-trained commercial airplane pilot a choice to carry a weapon if they choose to do so.
The legislation was aimed at giving one more tool to pilots who are flying planes that may or may not have been equipped with the new security doors to limit access to the cockpit area. Even with the doors installed, terrorists can still take over the passenger area and subdue sky marshals. A gun might enable a pilot the chance to hold terrorists at bay while he lands the plane and alerts air officials.
Despite the Air Line Pilots Association support of the bill, the state's congressional delegation was split mostly down party lines. Republicans were for it with the exception of Richard Burr and Democrats against except McIntyre.
Though the bill did not need McIntyre's support to pass the U.S. House, it is nice to see McIntyre's sensibility and independence to protect passengers when issues become mired down in partisan politics.