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 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.

Entering the home stretch and completing the debate hurdles of the past week, we have finally converted a tortoise race into a hare sprint for the May 6 finish line among the GOP Senate candidates.

In the three debates, Heather Grant, whom most would consider in fourth place, argued for what she called a “citizen legislator.” And while there were flashes of passion and conviction through the first two debates, she stated in the final one that “for me this race is not about being the next senator.”

With the start of early voting for the May primary election, many counties are expanding their voting locations and times to adjust to the new requirements under the 2013 VIVA Law, or the Voter Information Verification Act.

As recently reported, Mecklenburg County will offer more than six times as many early voting hours as it did in the 2010 primary election. But as a result of the VIVA Law, those hours will come during fewer days. 

Now that we are entering the home stretch of the May primary election, we still seem to lack a true frontrunner in the GOP nomination contest for the U.S. Senate. 

While most polls show Thom Tillis, speaker of the NC House of Representatives, leading the field, the numbers across several different polls indicate a larger percentage of the potential electorate still has not made up their minds regarding the eight candidates.

“And so begins a critical period in American politics…that almost no one notices,” is the conclusion of a Brookings Institute report about primary elections in the United States.  A key finding is that in the past three midterms elections, turnout in congressional primaries has averaged 5.4%, 4.6% and 7.5% of the voting age population. 

For many, corruption in politics is a given. Those awarded with the public’s trust are always questioned in their motives. 

The allegations that Charlotte’s mayor, Patrick Cannon, was just in a long list of notable scandals and examples of political corruption: most recently, the mayors of Detroit and New Orleans were targets of the criminal justice system at the local level.

My previous post looked at what has become one of the key competitive races for a U.S. Senate seat, following the closing of the filing period. But it won’t be just the U.S. Senate seat that will be up for grabs in May and November, but also all 170 seats in the North Carolina General Assembly. Or so one would think.

In looking at the candidate filing and the past voting patterns of the district lines under the new maps, the overall contest for North Carolina’s state legislature really won’t be as competitive as most would expect. 

The eight Republican U.S. Senate candidates who hope to take on Sen. Kay Hagan in the fall can be divided into three tiers.

Typically, we would consider “top tier” candidates who have run and held public office before, meaning they have financial resources, campaign organization, and some name recognition.