State Rep. Tom Murry outspent his Democratic opponent $500,000 to $200,000 in 2012 and won by two percentage points.
This year, the Morrisville Republican again has spent more money that his opponent, Cary Democrat Gale Adcock, but he leads in fundraising by a slimmer margin, illustrating how competitive the state House District 41 race has become.
Murry, who is running for re-election to his third term, has spent $608,000 while Adcock, a Cary Town Council member, spent $498,000 in the race to represent western Wake County in the state House of Representatives, according to campaign finance reports filed last week.
Political observers said the race would beone of the most competitive in North Carolina, and it’s living up to that expectation.
Both candidates’ supporters have accused their opponents of ethical missteps on the campaign trail, in addition to casting them as extremists.
In some cases, the accusations, spelled out in numerous mailers and ads, are either inaccurate or lack context.
The North Carolina Democratic Party filed a complaint with the state Board of Elections after Murry ran a television ad that misrepresented the name of his campaign committee as “Tom Murry for N.C. House” instead of the actual name of “N.C. Healthy Leadership Committee,” a violation of campaign rules.
Murry, a former Morrisville Town Council member, said he views the two names as synonymous and that the ad was not meant to be misleading. His campaign took corrective action and officials with the elections board said the case will soon be closed.
The North Carolina Republican Party criticized Adcock in a flier, and misspelled her first name, when she received campaign contributions from a Political Action Committee while still being listed as its custodian of books. The party didn’t file a complaint with the elections board.
State law doesn’t prohibit candidates from receiving donations from PACs while serving as its custodian of books, said Amy Strange, deputy director for campaign finance and operations for the N.C. Board of Elections.
Adcock said she doesn’t control the PAC, which the ad alleges.
A bulk of the allegations have centered around how much Murry and the Republican-controlled General Assembly have spent on education.
Adcock and her supporters have said that Murry cut $500 million from the state’s public schools, while Murry said he voted for a “historic” pay raise for teachers.
Both claims lack context.
In 2013, the continuation budget for the state Department of Public Instruction called for $23.6 billion over two years. The legislature’s budget included $23.1 billion over two years – $482 million short of what DPI said was needed.
Some argue that underfunding is not a cut.
As for teacher salaries, Murry supported a $282 million plan in the most recent budget to raise teacher pay by an average of 7 percent.
The teacher pay raise folded longevity pay – given to teachers with 10 years or more of experience – into the teacher’s regular salary. Some critics said legislators couldn’t take something teachers already were earning, repackage it and call it a raise.
Teachers also received raises that met or exceeded an average of 7 percent several other times under both Republican and Democratic governors.
The candidates and their supporters have attacked each others’ records, too.
Adcock authorized an ad targeting Murry for limiting access to cancer screenings and affordable birth control by supporting a budget in 2011 that prevented Planned Parenthood from receiving state money.
Murry authorized an ad criticizing Adcock for supporting a plan to sell land in downtown Cary to hotel developers for half the price – $951,000 – the town had paid for it.
Voters can expect the candidates and their supporters to continue to be aggressive leading up to Election Day, said Andy Taylor, political science expert at N.C. State University.
“The district is as competitive as any has been since the 2010 redistricting,” he said. “If the Democrats are going to claim any sort of legislative victory in this election ... they’ll have to win that seat.”