By Jim Ellis
March 25, 2016 — With the presidential campaign dominating the political media, it is easy to lose sight of the highly important 34 Senate races running simultaneously. At least one campaign appears to be in transition, and is rapidly shifting from relatively safe to potentially competitive.
Throughout 2015, it was commonly believed that North Carolina represented the Democrats’ most glaring candidate recruitment failure. Try as they might to attract a top name office holder or former statewide official like ex-US Sen. Kay Hagen, the party leaders could not convince a person of significant political stature to run. They settled for ex-state Rep. Deborah Ross and small town mayor Chris Rey. But the recent primary results and a new poll suggest that this race may be ascending the targeting charts.
In the March 15 statewide Democratic primary, Ross easily captured the Senate nomination and posted a much stronger-than-anticipated 62 percent against Rey (16 percent) and two other opponents. North Carolina carries a 40 percent run-off requirement; meaning, if no candidate exceeds this particular vote threshold the top two finishers move to a secondary election. Questions about Ross cracking the 40 percent mark consumed the pre-race predictions.