By Sandi C. | NC Spin
We now know the gubernatorial candidates from the two parties who will face off in November and strongly suspect how the respective campaigns will be waged.
Republican Pat McCrory has to move toward the middle for unaffiliated and moderate voters he needs in order to win. He will rail against the Democratic governors of the past twenty years who built a government too costly, bureaucratic and ineffective, and will frame his opponent as part of that tradition. He cannot run against the legislature, controlled by his own party. But he won’t embrace them either, because polls show voters don’t approve of their actions. Pat will tout his record as Mayor of Charlotte and will proclaim himself the jobs governor, the topic uppermost on voters’ minds. He’s already pretty much guaranteed the white male vote and won’t likely convince minorities, so expect his ad messages to appeal to women.
Democrat Walter Dalton will distance himself from Mike Easley or Bev Perdue and will proclaim he is his own man, not a party puppet. Dalton will run against the legislature, citing the critical need for a balance to what he will say is the legislature’s mean-spirited social agenda, especially the drastic and harmful budget cuts in the classroom and to those less fortunate. Dalton will play to the traditional Democratic constituencies of women, teachers, public employees and minorities and pray that President Obama once again has coattails long enough to pull him to victory, as it did Perdue. He will employ the tried and true formula, proclaiming himself the jobs governor who understands that education is the key to our state’s success.
Neither candidate will vary from carefully rehearsed talking points, crafted by campaign consultants to tantalize but not antagonize. This promises to be a well-financed and nasty campaign long on platitudes, short on specifics and filled by mudslinging. Which is exactly why North Carolina needs an unaffiliated third gubernatorial candidate to legitimize this campaign.
In 1992, Ross Perot singlehandedly reframed the presidential campaign by forcing the two major candidates off script, making them talk about substantive issues. Michael Munger’s 2008 campaign in North Carolina did somewhat the same thing. We deserve someone to disrupt the made-for-television campaigns and reframe the debate to address our state’s real concerns.
There are six significant issues that deserve substantive debate from those who would be our next governor. We need to know specific and detailed plans for job creation and economic development; education reform; healthcare, especially regarding Medicaid, mental health and the 1.6 million who are uninsured; a crumbling infrastructure, especially in transportation and energy discussions, particularly the controversial natural gas fracking. Most importantly, we want to know how this candidate will fill the leadership void this state now has. We want to hear how this governor will address the great schism developing between our state’s urban and rural areas. North Carolina has significant problems that deserve honest debate, not the same old, same old campaigns we’ve seen in recent years.
An unaffiliated candidate doesn’t stand a chance of winning, but this person can play a highly valuable role, especially in the predictably boring and unproductive gubernatorial debates we are sure to have. The 2012 gubernatorial campaign, our people and even the candidates would benefit from an unaffiliated candidate for governor.