With just a little more than a year to go before the mid-term elections, it seems that many North Carolinians are having buyer’s remorse.
The honeymoon is over for Republicans who decisively took control of the General Assembly last year. According to a recent Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey, 53 percent of state residents disapprove of state House and Senate Republicans. The news is even worse for Gov. Pat McCrory. A poll released this week by High Point University shows his approval rating at 38 percent.
The groundswell of criticism of the GOP may help Mary Dickinson. The longtime political activist became the first local Democrat last week to announce her plans to challenge a Republican incumbent.
“I’ve been thinking about this for some time and I just feel what is happening in Raleigh galvanized me to the point where I said ‘This is the time for me to run, I’m ready,’” said the Pennsylvania native.
Dickinson will run in the Republican-friendly 74th District. Debra Conrad, a former Forsyth County Commissioner, won the seat last year. Dickinson, a retired teacher, strongly objects to measures Conrad and her Republican colleagues have implemented last session, especially the education cuts and new restrictions placed on abortion and on voting, both of which have garnered national attention.
According to Public Policy Polling, N.C. Republicans have seen their disapproval rates climb since January and Republicans are losing by seven points on polls using a hypothetical generic ballot. Specific Republican legislators are losing or tied in the polls against generic Democratic candidates in eight senate districts. That is good news for N.C. Democrats, because the party needs only nine seats to regain the majority in the Senate.
Dickinson called the polls “encouraging.”
“I believe people are inherently good and they will finally see reason; we just need to be there when that happens, with some good common-sense. That’s what’s missing – common-sense has left the building,” said Dickinson, who announced her candidacy at a meeting of the Forsyth County Hispanic-American Democrats, an auxiliary she started and advises.
Forsyth County Democrats Chair Susan Campbell thinks Dickinson’s experience will make her a “formidable candidate.” She hopes she can find others like her to run in a political environment that appears favorable.
“I think the mood of the electorate right now is leaning towards the Democratic Party and is very upset with what’s going on in Raleigh,” Campbell said. “I think we have some real chance to make some headway and to gain some seats back.”
Campbell concedes that the battle is uphill. Lawmakers have drawn districts that clearly favor one party or the other.
“It’s not going to be easy because of redistricting,” she said. “The districts have been so securely drawn in so many areas that they’re not competitive, that’s what makes it difficult to make a change in the leadership in Raleigh – the gerrymandering of the districts.”
The state Democratic Party is also in search of a few good candidates to run against vulnerable Republicans, according to spokesman Micah Beasley. He said many of the races in 2012 were extremely close and expects that to be the case again. Beasley doesn’t expect Democrats will have a problem reaching Republican voters and expects the focus of the campaigns will once again be on jobs and the economy.
“I think we’re going to run very relatable candidates that people are able to talk with about the issues affecting everyday North Carolinans,” he said.