Michael Bitzer

Political Columnist

Dr. Michael Bitzer is an associate professor of politics and history at Catawba College, where he also serves as the 2011-2012 Swink Professor for Excellence in Classroom Teaching and the chair of the department of history & politics.  A native South Carolinian, he holds graduate degrees in both history and political science from Clemson University and The University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. Dr. Bitzer’s studies have focused on Southern politics, campaigns and elections, and a variety of topics in American politics.

Much has been made about the recent vote by the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to authorize the Speaker to initiate a lawsuit “regarding the failure of the President … to act in a manner consistent with that official’s duties under the Constitution and laws of the United States with respect to implementation” of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

Now that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down Virginia’s marriage ban for same-sex couples, the question turns from “if” gay marriage will be allowed in North Carolina to “when” it will occur.

I recently spoke to WFAE’s Tom Bullock for a story about the state budget impasse and its likely culprits - political safe districts.

As a political scientist, I always have to think of different factors that may explain what happens in politics, which makes my job that much more fun, or frustrating, depending on what we’re trying to understand and explain.

The past few days have testified to the old political saying: there are two things you never want to watch being made — sausage and laws. 

And in the attempts to pass a readjusted state budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, the North Carolina General Assembly has also played into another old saying: Actions speak louder than words.

In trying to resolve their fundamental differences on the $21 billion state budget, the state House and Senate formed what is often referred to as the “third chamber” of legislatures: A conference committee.

There are certain stories that just come out every election cycle like clockwork, akin to a consistent dog whistle for some reporters who really don’t want to take the time to investigate the past to discover what might be in the present.

Much has been made about who will show up in elections and how both parties put together their different coalitions to win in state-wide general elections.  And with the significant growth in one bloc of the general population, both sides are attempting to see how they can best capitalize on a changing electorate.

When I wrote my last post for The Party Line, we were expecting that all the attention on Tuesday’s primary election would be in South Carolina. Instead, the political earthquake centered in Richmond, Va., with the unseating of the second-most powerful Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives.

And while most commentators are readying national implications into the race, it would seem like the old adage of former House Speaker Tip O’Neill still rings true: All politics is local.

Much has been written about the ‘Civil War’ within the Grand Old Party between the Establishment/Old Guard and the Tea Party insurgents to secure a spot on the November ballot. 

Yet with the vast majority of Tea Party candidates failing to unseat incumbent Republicans during this primary season, it was surprising to see a long-time serving Republican in the U.S. House loose his bid for renomination , and a Republican incumbent in the U.S. Senate appear to be on the ropes.

Now that that the ‘short’ session of the North Carolina General Assembly is underway, we’ll see if ‘short’ truly lives up to its definition. With the Republicans still in super-majority control, the likelihood is that the legislative time will live up to its name.

And it’s not just for the sake of having to bear summers in the capital city, but rather the stakes that are associated with a major mid-term election battle.

Some thoughts from the primary election results:

North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis showed that having the experience of running for prior public office, combined with a significant war chest, can pay off. Tillis secured the Republican nomination with what was a comfortable margin of five points over the threshold needed against his seven opponents.

In the end, five of the GOP candidates couldn’t receive even 10 percent of the vote.

Tillis dominated the early voting and Election Day voting, winning 45% of election votes and 47% of the early, in-person voting.