What is the most important issue in the upcoming election?
North Carolina doesn’t need a president, U.S. senator or governor on its ballot to have a wild and weighty election.
A panel of political experts summarized the situation Monday night during a News & Observer “Community Voices” forum at the N.C. Museum of History in downtown Raleigh.
There are six proposed amendments to the state Constitution. There’s an open state Supreme Court seat, and one candidate’s campaign ad features liberal activist and Republican bogeyman George Soros.
Then there are the races for Congress and the North Carolina legislature, which could reduce the power of Republicans who control both.
Experts said the election will answer a pivotal question: Are Americans and North Carolinians OK with the fear-based campaigns and politicians who push through their agendas without regard for transparency?
“The future of Western democracy is at stake,” said David McLennan, political science professor at Meredith College. He said his statement wasn’t partisan in nature.
“We’ve seen what happens without debate … without committee hearings,” McLennan said. “Major pieces of legislation have been passed in the dark of night.”
Panelists said they were appalled but not surprised at the amount of fear-mongering in campaigns across the country.
Earlier Monday, President Donald Trump referred to the media as the “true enemy of the people” that has fueled “great anger.” Democrats are telling voters that Republicans will try to block health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
No one is happy, the panelists agreed.
Gerry Cohen, a longtime bill-drafter in the N.C. legislature, brought up the controversial ad launched by Republican state Supreme Court candidate Barbara Jackson. She’s up against Republican Chris Anglin and Democrat Anita Earls.
The ad encourages voters to “stop the liberals” and portrays Soros as an “Oz” figure.
“What does that have to do with anything except to make people fearful? It’s disgusting,” Cohen said.
Young people and women seem energized, said Elizabeth Kusko, an assistant professor of political science at Peace University, and Janet Hoy, co-president of the League of Women Voters.
“It’s partly anger, and it’s partly the understanding that to do something important, you’ll have to roll up your sleeves and do it,” Hoy said of women’s increased interest in current issues.
“If there’s one thing you should not underestimate, it’s an angry woman,” Kusko said.
The experts spoke on a range of issues during the 90-minute event, which featured a panel discussion followed by a question-and-answer session. They concluded their night with predictions.
Don’t rely on millennials for change. “If just half of millennials and Generation Z show up, they’ll be the biggest voting bloc,” Kusko said. They’re enthusiastic and reports show many college students have requested absentee ballots. However, Kusko said, they might not know where to buy stamps.
Don’t expect Democrats to gain control in NC. McLennan, who directs a poll at Meredith College, said polls suggest Democrats breaking the GOP supermajority in the legislature but falling short of controlling either chamber.
Expect at least half of the six amendments to pass. The voter ID, hunting and fishing, victims’ rights and income tax cap amendment proposals are likely to pass, McLennan said. The fate of the two amendments that shift power from the governor’s office to the legislature, which all former governors say they oppose, is up the air.