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Monthly Archives: May 2013

The 2014 US Senate Race in NC: the Democrat’s last best chance?

Recent polls suggest that Senator Kay Hagan faces a difficult reelection bid in 2014. A recent Civitas poll has her in a statistical tie with a generic Republican and Public Policy Polling has a few points ahead of several Republicans, including the current NC House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem.

After the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, Democrats are in need of a victory, even by an incumbent senator. Not only did the Democrats lose the governorship and both houses of the General Assembly, but the NC Congressional delegation is now held by a Republican majority. These losses not only give Republicans political momentum heading into the 2014 races, but, more importantly, a significant funding pipeline for electoral races.

As recently as 2008, Democrats held a 2-to-1 fundraising advantage in legislative races. No longer. Democrats have lost their fundraising advantage because the business community, long supportive of moderate and conservative Democratic candidates, has switched its support wholeheartedly to Republican candidates.

This leaves Kay Hagan in quite a quandary. If she moves to the left in the next seventeen months to appeal to many Democratic constituent groups already angry and motivated by Republican rule in NC, she could further alienate the NC donor groups so important to Democrats in the past. Then, Hagan has to rely heavily on funding coming from outside North Carolina from groups such as the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, an organization that is going to be defending many seats currently held by Democratic officeholders. 

There is little doubt that Democrats will target the Hagan race as critical for maintaining a foothold in NC politics until 2016 when the governorship and the seat currently held by Senator Richard Burr is up for election. Hagan’s dilemma and that of many Democratic candidates in moderate districts is whether to appeal to the angry base or try to repair its fundraising machine and appeal to the moderate business community?

Closing the Pipeline to Elected Office

The North Carolina Senate budget eliminates all internship programs in the General Assembly for high school and college students. The reason for eliminating these programs is cost savings, as other programs, such as Medicaid, have increased.

These internship programs have a long history in North Carolina and graduates of these programs, such as NC Labor Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, cite participation in the programs as vital in their decisions to seek elected office.

Given that young peoples’ interest in traditional civic engagement, such as running for office, is declining, especially young women, it seems counterproductive to further dampen the interest of young people is public service.

Today’s young people have much less exposure to “live” politics than previous generations. My first political memory is my father taking me to a parade–in reality a presidential motorcade coming through my city. Seeing the president slowly riding down the street with Secret Service jogging along the presidential limousine was an impressive sight and one that generated my interest in politics. Most of my students today are only exposed to politics through media–old and new–and they are cynical about elected officials as a result. 

Direct exposure to politics, through things like internship programs, are the best way to counteract this cynicism and spark an interest in public service. I force most of my students to meet elected officials, either through forced attendance at meetings or working on a political campaign. For most of these students, their attitudes about public officials change.

I am hopeful that a compromise can be reached between the NC House and Senate in producing a final budget for North Carolina that saves the legislative internship programs. Getting more young people interested in entering the pipeline to elected office depends on it.