Voters confused. Usual campaign strategies out the window! 3rd CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Four parties, 26 candidates, low turnout, little name recognition, zero polling data, no front-runner make April 30 primary to fill deceased incumbent’s seat one for textbooks!

A large stage at Orringer Auditorium on the campus of Craven Community College could barely accommodate all of the candidates from the 3rd Congressional District during a March 22 forum.

News Analysis

EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA – Political operatives, and even rank-and-file voters, view the April 30 primary election as a truly unique occurrence in North Carolina history.

The seat, of course, has been held by a Walter Jones – first the father and then his son – for more than five decades. The death in February of the incumbent Congressman, serving for what he announced would be his last term, left the office open with no heir apparent. The brief one-week filing period ended March 8, with each would-be successor paying the $1,740 filing fee – a figure that represents one-percent of the gross annual salary of the federally-paid position in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Since then, the pace has been frenetic for more than two dozen candidates – 17 Republicans, 6 Democrats, 2 Libertarians.

Only one candidate has yet to sweat out a campaign – he is unopposed and the sure-fire nominee of the Constitution Party, which is the state’s newest certified political group..

With some exceptions, polling places throughout the 17-county Congressional District have reported abysmally low turnouts during Early Voting. Low turnouts and a crowed field means that preaching to the choir (typically forums where the attendees are older, conversant with politics, and likely to vote) has been the hallmark of this super-abbreviated campaign.

Make no mistake. In this contest, every single vote cast will have a dramatic effect! In fact, some experts are predicting that a mere 3,000 votes for any one candidate – garnered across a Congressional district comprised of 17 eastern N.C. counties – could take home all the marbles!

As a newspaper guy, I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with many of the candidates. I am happy to report that each and every one seems to be intelligent, qualified, committed, and up-to-date on the hot-button issues. As one might expect, there are different political philosophies. A large percentage of the candidates are quick to point out their Conservative credentials – no surprise for anyone hoping to represent gun-toting, country-boy-will-survive eastern North Carolina.

Fortunately,  I can honestly say that any of them, if ultimately elected, seem up to the task – at least as I understand the role and responsibilities of a U.S. Congressman or Congresswoman.

Even those who perform best in the April 30 primary will surely face more hurdles. Experts predict that 30 percent of the vote required to grab their party’s nomination is highly unlikely among the Republicans and the Democrats. In that case, the Top Two from each party will face each other in a runoff scheduled for July 9. Then, the final piece of the puzzle happens in early September with yet another election.

The goal?  Those of us in the Third Congressional District will have selected one of our own to occupy the seat most recently held by the revered Walter Jones.  It matters only a little bit that the newest federal legislator in the House of Representatives will assume the bottom rung on a totem pole loaded with 434 other more senior colleagues!

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