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by Jordan Green

REPUBLICAN GRASS FIRE

Bill Burckley, a Greensboro political consultant who worked on the campaigns of eight out of nine victorious city council candidates in the recent election, predicts a windfall year for Republicans.

“Consistently, the number of people registering unaffiliated is larger than the number of people registering Republican and Democrat,” he said. “It’s sort of like 1994, but not exactly. In 1992, you had a lot of people turn out for the presidential election. Bill Clinton didn’t carry North Carolina, but he didn’t do bad here. It all fell apart. It fell apart because of Hillarycare. I don’t care what the Democrats say about Obamacare; they may as well fall on their swords. Their goners. You had a lot of Democrats stay at home in 1994. The unaffiliated voters broker towards the Republicans. The Republicans all voted.

“BJ Barnes ran for sheriff [in Guilford County] in 1990, and didn’t win. He ran again in 1994, and he won. Here’s how he won, as I see it: The number of people who voted straight Republican vs. straight Democrat is plus-3,000. BJ won by almost exactly that same number. I see the same thing happening this year. Unaffiliated voters are totally voting Republican this year. There’s no safe Democrat anywhere. If [Scott] Brown could win in Massachusetts, there’s no safe seat for Democrats.”

Burckley, who helped unseat Greensboro Mayor Yvonne Johnson — a well-liked, African-American Democrat — last year said he believes the NC House could tip into GOP control this year, and a handful of North Carolina Democrats in the US House could lose their seats: Larry Kissell in the 8 th District (“gone”),

Heath Shuler in the 11 th District (“probably gone”), Brad Miller in the 13 th District (“could lose”) and Bob Etheridge in the 2 nd District (“could lose”).

Burckley acknowledged that he’s been hired by at least two candidates for NC General Assembly — both incumbent Democrats: Sen. Don Vaughan and Rep. Earl Jones.

“Don Vaughan and I go back to the early eighties,” Burckley said. “We were both involved in the Guilford County Democratic Party. I was the treasurer and he was the first vice president. He’s already retained me. People say candidates hire me so their opponents won’t be able to hire me. I’m his insurance policy.”

Vaughan and fellow Guilford County Democratic Sen. Katie Dorsett had no challengers from either party as of Tuesday, with the filing period closing on Friday. Similarly, Phil Berger of Rockingham County, the Senate Republican leader, Republican Sen. Stan Bingham of Davidson County, Republican Pete Brunstetter and Democrat Linda Garrou, both of Forsyth County, appear to face no opposition.

In Guilford and Forsyth counties, many if not all incumbents face at least nominal challenges from across party lines.

In congressional races across the state, the energy and aspiration is clearly coming from the right, with grassroots Republicans challenging both entrenched Democrats and incumbents from their own party.

Billy Yow, a Republican well driller from southern Guilford County who serves on the county commission, filed for the 6 th Congressional District seat on Feb. 18. Later that day, Republican the 78-year-old incumbent Howard Coble fainted during an appearance before the High Point Rotary Club.

Yow said his phone has been “ringing off the hook” with calls from people interested in his campaign since the announcement of his candidacy.

“My candidacy is resonating so well because there’s been so much going on in Congress and so little done,” he said. “The American people are tired of what’s going on in Congress and they’re looking for something different.”

Two other Republicans have entered the race, Cathy Brewer Hinson of High Point and James Taylor of Pinehurst, while only one Democrat, Sam Turner, has braved the waters.

Two Republicans, Doc Gillenwater of Greensboro and Greg Dority of Washington, have declared in 12th Congressional District, the Interstate 85 district long represented by Democrat Mel Watt of Charlotte. Libertarian Lon Cecil of High Point is also a candidate.

Meanwhile, three Republicans have challenged Democrat Brad Miller for the 13th Congressional District seat that arcs from Raleigh to Greensboro. They are Dan Huffman of Wake Forest, Frank Hurley of Chapel Hill and Bernie Reeves of Raleigh.

Arch-conservative Republican Virginia Foxx, who represents the 5th Congressional District, has attracted challengers from both parties: Republican Keith Gardner of Hickory and Democrat Billy Kennedy of Vilas.

Beyond the Triad, Democratic incumbents GK Butterfield, David Price, Larry Kissell and Heath Shuler — who respectively represent the 1st , 4th , 8th and 11th districts — have each attracted at least four Republican challengers.

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