Which way will North Carolina go?
Once known as “the Dixie Dynamo,” North Carolina has long been characterized by its tug-of-war between tradition and progression. Now, the state is being torn between more than old and new patterns of thinking. It has become a political battleground — a place where liberal and conservative, urban and rural, and public and private interests all collide.
After more than 100 years of Democratic control, the North Carolina General Assembly now operates under a Republican majority. With the state’s current unemployment rate of 9.4 percent ranking fourth highest in the nation, both gubernatorial and presidential hopefuls are focusing on how to bolster an economy that has stagnated after the slow-down of the tobacco, textile and furniture industries.
In addition to the high-profile trial of former senator John Edwards, North Carolina has recently thrust itself into the national spotlight with its May 8 passage of Amendment One, which placed a constitutional ban on gay marriage. The amendment passed in the primary election by a 60-40 margin that highlighted the state’s growing urban-rural divide.
Come November, North Carolina voters will decide between gubernatorial candidates Walter Dalton, who has been linked with unpopular incumbent Bev Perdue, and Pat McCrory, the former Republican mayor of Charlotte. The turnout of the state’s female voters and its growing minority population will play a major role in determining whether the state will support President Obama again or return to its trend of electing Republican presidents.
In North Carolina, landslide elections rarely ever occur. Both the Republican and the Democratic candidates will get about 47 percent of the vote. This means that whether the issue is fracking, education spending or road construction, politicians must seek the approval of the middle six percent — and in 2012 that approval relies on the promise of economic security.
Sarah Glen is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was a writer and editor, then online editor for the Daily Tar Heel and is now the Team Captain for the WhichWayNC Project. On Twitter: @_sarahglen