Dome: Outside spending on NC races totals $14.5 million

FROM STAFF REPORTSJanuary 27, 2013 

The Institute for Southern Studies has tallied up the final spending by outside groups in North Carolina political campaigns last year. The results are pretty much the same as the nonprofit public policy group came up with in November, but some of the updated numbers are worth noting:

The N.C. Supreme Court race drew more than $2.8 million in spending from independent groups. Eighty-nine percent of it was to elect Justice Paul Newby over appellate court Judge Sam Ervin IV. The N.C. Judicial Coalition spent $1.9 million to help Newby.

The governor’s race attracted more than $8.1 million in outside spending.

The biggest outside spender of all was the Republican Governors Association, based in Washington, D.C., which spent more than $4.9 million to elect Pat McCrory governor. National corporations are the big contributors to the RGA, along with North Carolina-based businesses such as Reynolds Tobacco, Duke Energy and Variety Stores (owned by state budget director Art Pope).

The liberal group Common Sense Matters spent close to $1 million, pretty much on losing candidates. As has been reported, that group gets its money from the N.C. Futures Action Fund (which was involved in the Wake school board elections in 2011), the N.C. League of Conservation Voters, N.C. Advocates for Justice (the trial lawyers), America Votes Action Fund (a national liberal group), the N.C. Association of Educators, and a couple of Planned Parenthood entities.

In all, more than $14.5 million was spent by independent groups.

Looking for higher office

State Treasurer Janet Cowell made Governing magazine’s list of Democrats to watch at the state level.

The Governing write up: “North Carolina has been open to electing women to higher office in recent years, and Cowell could get more exposure than usual if the state legislature takes up tax reform this year – an issue Cowell has emphasized during her tenure.”

Joining Cowell on the list are other up-and-comers who are looking to higher office: California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller and Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

This is how writer Louis Jacobson described the criteria: “Ambition was a necessary factor, but given how important ambition is to politics, it was not sufficient on its own. We looked for diversity in geography and policy portfolio. We also gave significant weight to these factors: Have they shown unusual leadership qualities? Did they strike a creative alliance across party lines, or offer an innovative policy solution that could be copied elsewhere? Are they path-breaking demographically? Are they the first woman, minority, Republican or Democrat to hold their position? Do they have a compelling personal story?”

Working together

Randy Voller, the lone remaining candidate in the race for N.C. Democratic Party chairman, sent out a statement praising Sen. Eric Mansfield, who left the race Thursday.

“Over the past five weeks, Senator Eric Mansfield and I became brothers in the Democratic family,” said Voller, the Pittsboro mayor. “Frequently, we expressed our mutual admiration, and we vowed to run a totally positive campaign that would be completely different from every other campaign that came before it – for there would be no winner; there would be no loser. Whatever the outcome, we would work together arm-in-arm and hand-in-hand to move forward on the path of revitalization for the North Carolina Democratic Party.

“It is with great sadness that I learned of his mother’s illness, and I wish her a swift and total recovery that will be assured by having such a brilliant physician as her son constantly at her side,” he continued. “But, make no mistake: Eric Mansfield will be back working together with all of us in our movement to reverse the twisted course history has taken in North Carolina so that we can return to our true mission of leading American progress from the very front.”

Staff writers Craig Jarvis and John Frank

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