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Election Special: Democratic, Republican Commentators Preview Key Midterm Races

Greg Collard / WFAE
WFAE's David Boraks (left) talks with former state Sen. Malcolm Graham (center) and Republican Edwin Peacock.

WFAE kicks off its election coverage Tuesday night from 7 to 8 p.m. WFAE’s David Boraks will be joined in studio by Democratic former state Sen. Malcolm Graham and Republican Edwin Peacock, a former Charlotte city council member and mayoral candidate. Davidson College political science professor Susan Roberts will also join for part of the hour.

The polls close at 7:30 p.m. Listeners are invited to join the conversation online or by phone. You can call in at 704-926-9323, or message us on WFAE’s Facebook and Twitter.

Boraks spoke to Graham and Peacock for a preview of several races on the ballot, starting with North Carolina’s hotly contested 9th District Congressional Race.

Peacock: This is Mark Harris's race to lose. The numbers are with him and I think you have an experienced campaigner from his Senate race and, obviously, these two congressional efforts. Overturning Robert Pittenger was no small feat and so Dan McCready has a real uphill climb here.

[McCready is] buying first and foremost brain cells as to who Dan McCready is. Particularly as you leave South Charlotte and move towards the edges of his district, he just is not as well known. If he has a very strong turnout in Charlotte and in Mecklenburg County, this will get even closer. We're going to notice that the moment early voting results come out, because the math works well for Dan inside really, what I call, “inside 51.”

Where it gets really tight for [McCready] is as he starts to head out toward Waxhaw, Weddington and toward Union County. That's where Mark is going to show really strong. Dan has not really found his voice, in my opinion. He's been a little too coy in making known where he stands on issues where I, frankly, thought he would be really firing up the Democratic base. It just doesn't strike me that he's really resonating with a lot of what I call “Reagan Democrats.”

Graham: You can't hide behind the television commercials. You've got to go out and tell the people who you are and what you stand for. So, I think it's right that we wish he was a little bit more aggressive and assertive, but hey — it's a toss-up.

If [McCready] can do well, especially in Fayetteville, North Carolina — the district stretches all the way out there — his veteran background may play a key role in that. So, if he can do well in Charlotte, Fayetteville — again we're talking urban areas — but it's the middle part that Ed talked about that he may find trouble getting votes.

Boraks: Let's take a look at a few of the state House races in the Charlotte area. There's some interesting ones here. Several Republican incumbents are facing unusually close races. Why is that and how are you seeing these races?

Peacock: I’ll first go to the (House District 104) Dulin-Lofton race. I think Andy Dulin being a city councilman, having just a very strong name recognition in his district and obviously being a very active voice as he's been, I think he's campaigning very actively. But I think he's got definitely his first biggest challenger that you wouldn't have ever been able to map out from the very beginning. But newcomer Brandon Lofton seems to have broad support from both sides at least as far as what I will consider to be very much “purple Charlotte.”

Boraks: I got to ask you some news has come out recently that Andy Dulin was arrested in Ohio in July for DUI. Is that going to be a factor in this race?

Peacock: It very much could be. Certainly, the timing is suspect. This is politics. It is a contact sport. 

However that information got out, it's certainly not something that Mr. Dulin welcomes and he also refutes.

Graham: the general theology for Democrats is try to narrow the gap in the House as well as the Senate in the General Assembly. I think that race is one that we're looking at. Can Brandon make an upset over Andy Dulin, a former city council member? This is [Dulin’s] first term as well. So, if you're going to beat an incumbent, you've got to do it early.

Another race a little closer to home for me is the race with Natasha Marcus and Jeff Tarte.

Boraks: State Senate District 41. Tarte is the Republican incumbent. His challenger is Natasha Marcus, a former lawyer from Davidson. What do you think about that one?

Graham: You could flip a coin on that race as well. Both of these candidates are running extremely strong campaigns. Natasha’s got a lot of support from the state Democrats. They're looking at that seat to, again, narrow the gap in the North Carolina State Senate. Aggressive fundraising, knocking on doors — she's doing that grass roots, the old fashioned way, and she's making a dent. Keep in mind, that district has been changed a little bit as well. And so the math kind of narrows in the middle, so it's a flippable seat.

Peacock: Jeff Tarte's a really strong campaigner. He’s got a lot of name ID. He's been in and around this county for some time being a former mayor. It really helps him. This is almost a question of who can get out their vote. And that obviously would again lead to the incumbent, but Malcolm is correct. [Marcus] has definitely narrowed a gap that many people didn't think that she could.

Boraks: Another Senate district in our area is District 39. Dan Bishop is the Republican incumbent and he's challenged by Democrat Chad Stachowicz.

Peacock: I just don't see some of the prognostics there saying that this is a close race. Dan Bishop has got strong name recognition in that area, and his opponent and challenger — I just haven't seen one yard sign. 

Boraks: This is another one of those districts where DUI is a factor. It’s raised an old DUI against Chad Stachowicz about 10 years ago. It’s been brought up as a factor.

Graham: Well, politics is a contact sport and that's a difficult race for him to run. He's running a formidable campaign as best he can. The incumbent is strong. Demographics on that side of town favors the Republicans. Voter turnout in that area is very heavy as well. We would love to win that seat, but it’s not one of those targeted seats I think that the Democrats statewide are looking at to win. 

Boraks: Democrats are hoping to win four [seats] in the House and six [seats] in the Senate. Maybe one more local race to watch. Christy Clark is a Democrat challenging John Bradford in the 98th District. He’s a Republican. What are the issues in that race and what do you see happening there?

Graham: Christy Clark is running a very strong campaign. She's raising a lot of money.

The perforation of TV ads for local races this year is amazing and that's an indication that these folks are raising money. It's also an indication that the state Democratic Party is backing these candidates. It's a seat that we think we can win, but it will be hard. [Clarke has] certainly put in the work. We'll see if it produces the win on Election Day.

Boraks: I want to talk briefly about the constitutional amendments. We've got six of them. I won't take them all off. I think people are becoming familiar with them with a lot of attention. Although, there are some questions about whether voters really know what they're voting on. Why are these on the ballot and what are people saying about the vote? Edwin Peacock?

Peacock: I think it's just generally voter confusion right now. I think they're going to come into the ballot box and you could see a situation where you just see very few people participate in even voting on these. The other thing that I've seen a far bigger cry for has just been simply vote no across the board. And I don't know where the advocates are behind this. This would be from the Republican legislature in advocating specifically for certain ones.

It certainly doesn't help that you have Governor McCrory and Governor Martin specifically being against the last two. By the way, these are not numbered on the ballot so it creates even more confusion. So you really can't say Malcolm, for example, that you're against number three and I'm against number four. People are just generally confused. And if they're confused, I think it leads to no change. 

Graham: I think he's right. They got on the ballot because of the Republican Party and the General Assembly trying to motivate their base to come to vote and so they put these amendments on the ballot. 

David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.