Two updates to my Wednesday report for NRO on the results of Southern primary elections on Tuesday. First, a real political shocker happened today in North Carolina. Two Republicans, Richard Vinroot and Patrick Ballantine, had qualified Tuesday for a runoff scheduled August 17 to pick a nominee to face incumbent Democratic Gov. Mike Easley. Vinroot, the 2000 gubernatorial nominee, was slightly the leading vote-getter on election night and immediately came out swinging against Ballantine, the former minority leader of the state senate, questioning his conservative credentials for having support some state spending increases and corporate-incentive bills.
The day after the primary, however, it became evident that there was an undercount of votes in New Hanover County, the coastal community that Ballantine had represented in the legislature for a dozen years (what it is about Southern beach counties and vote-count irregularities?) Seems Ballantine won a few thousand more votes there than originally reported, putting him 1,500 votes in the lead statewide. It was statistically insignificant, but perhaps not psychologically so. On Thursday Vinroot called a press conference and stunned everyone by dropping out of the race and endorsing Ballantine. He said he didn’t want to divide the party and weaken its chances of tossing out Easley, a three-time tax-raiser. Other factors were probably in play, too.
I also wanted to give NRO readers a better sense of just how bad the pro-protectionist advertising was in some of North Carolina’s congressional primaries in the textile and furniture belt. One mailer showed a picture of China with chopsticks poking out and the ominous headline: “They are chopping your jobs.” The candidate, the best-financed in a field of four, got beat soundly in his primary.