Vote to live


Normally we save our “get out and vote” editorial for the week preceding the general election, which this year falls on Nov. 4. But in case you haven’t noticed, there’s been some action in the presidential race and for the first time many of us can remember, and the May 6 North Carolina primary is a hot ticket.

But most of you have noticed: 165,000 new voters have registered in the Old North State since January. Visits to the Triad by Democratic candidates Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, as well as President Bill Clinton, have drawn crowds and national press. Local politicos are getting into the act by making appearances at stump speeches and granting endorsements. The North Carolina media – the outlets that value their civic responsibility, anyway – are devoting more broadcast time and column inches to the contest than at any other time. And we’ll be having a debate between the Democratic bigwigs here. Details are not yet nailed down, but it will be Katie Couric’s first time hosting such an event, which is a big deal in some media circles.

The last time the North Carolina primary was been anything other than an afterthought was in 1976. That was the year Jimmy Carter squared off with George Wallace on the Democrats’ side of the aisle, taking 55 percent of the vote to Wallace’s 36, and then went on to defeat Gerald Ford in the general election.

The ’76 primary also had repercussions for the Republicans. Though Ford took his party’s nomination, he was thumped in the state primary by California Gov. Ronald Reagan after Sen. Jesse Helms got into the act. Reagan would repay the favor by lending his support to Helms in his 1978 Senate campaign against Gov. Jim Hunt.

Don’t you just love this stuff?

Of course, this year the GOP has already got its man with Sen. John McCain, but things are still up in the air on the Democratic side of the ledger and many political observers believe that, barring a big sweep by Clinton, the primary will solidify Obama’s position as the eventual nominee.

But that’s just one reason, albeit a big one, to vote in the primary election this year.

In some ways, the primary is more important than the general election, like the NFL playoffs are more exciting than the Super Bowl. The field is wider; the hits harder; the pressure more intense.

Plus, many state and local contests will be decided by the primary because the winners of the parties’ endorsements will run unopposed in November.

In Guilford County, more than half a billion dollars in bond issues are on the primary ballot. Forsyth County voters have a chance to put Winston-Salem City Councilman Dan Besse on the fast track to become the state’s lieutenant governor. Down in Charlotte they’re pulling for their mayor, Pat McCrory, to become North Carolina’s first Republican governor since Jim Martin left office in 1993.

It’s terribly exciting. And you can get into the act by getting out to your polling place on May 6 to make your choices heard.

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