Quick Guide: High Profile Candidates, Big Issues Dominate in the NC Race

In our second State AG Pulse episode in season 4, Stephen Cobb talks North Carolina politics with Swain Wood, former North Carolina Chief Deputy AG, and WRAL correspondent, Will Doran. They consider the local and national issues that will be foremost in voters’ minds, the likelihood of ticket-splitting and the impact of outgoing AG Josh Stein’s performance, in an AG race featuring two high profile and well-funded candidates.

(00:22): Stephen introduces himself and his two guests: former NC Chief Deputy, Swain Wood and Will Doran, correspondent for WRAL in North Carolina.

(01:45): Stephen talks about the significance of the North Carolina race for the upcoming general election and invites Swain to set the NC landscape.

(02:16): Swain unpicks to gubernatorial and AG races.

(03:24): Stephen asks about the issues and underlying political trends that have emerged in the primary season in North Carolina.

(03:42): Will weighs in on the presidential primaries and highlights the low voter turnout, which he attributes to voter fatigue at the prospect of another Trump/Biden match-up.

(04:59): Stephen asks Will and Swain about the issues that drive ticket splitting in North Carolina. Swain responds that ticket splitting in the state has a long history with NC voters preferring to elect Republicans for president and Democrats to run state government. Will confirms that the office of AG will have an outsized impact in the upcoming election, in part due to the high profile nature of the two AG candidates, Jeff Jackson (D) and Dan Bishop (R).

(09:37): The speakers dig into Stein’s campaign for governor and the extent to which his race will be informed by voters’ perceptions of his performance as AG. Swain notes a high degree of bipartisan collaboration with respect to the opioid settlements which Stein is leveraging in his campaign. Stein has also taken a stand on other issues that are important to voters like combatting robocalls and enforcing the Do Not Call list, and taken a stand against big business.

(12:57): Will identifies legalization of sports betting and expansion of Medicaid as two huge issues that the AG’s office could find itself dealing with, alongside legalization of medical marijuana and marketing of vaping to kids.

(14:35): Stephen raises the partisan battle over women’s reproductive rights, which Will thinks will play an important role in the governor’s race given that Stein as AG refused to defend the state’s new abortion law in court. He also talks about the challenges of inspiring voters and suggests abortion will be a huge driver for D turnout. Swain agrees that this issue will generate a pitched battle.

(19:40): Stephen asks about the crossover issues that have helped candidates win office, regardless of party. Will mentions the broad bipartisan support for continuing to tackle the opioid epidemic. Swain believes one of the most influential issues in voters’ minds is AG as the people’s lawyer. Candidates who conduct themselves in a way that shows they recognize that have enjoyed the greatest success.

(24:08): Stephen digs in on whether national or local issues will dominate this election cycle. Will’s impression is that although issues are getting more national, there is still a role for state level candidates to run on local issues, and the impact of these issues will be magnified by the extremely narrow margins between winners and losers.

(27:54): Swain describes the formula of emphasizing state issues that he believes has worked for statewide Democrats in North Carolina. He contrasts this with Trump’s strategies in 2016 and 2020.

(30:56): Stephen wraps up by asking Swain and Will to do some crystal ball gazing and predict what the next 6 months will look like in NC. He postulates that developments in the economy/unemployment will have a big impact on voters’ choices. Will identifies the economy, healthcare, and immigration as the top issues in NC. Swain’s view is that there’s a sense that things have stabilized and that the economy has bounced back pretty strongly.

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