Potential Successors To Congressman Coble Step Forward
The race to replace a long-time North Carolina member of Congress is already underway with a crowd of candidates lining up to compete for the 6th Congressional seat. Howard Coble was first elected on the night Ronald Reagan walloped Walter Mondale and earned a second term in the White House. When Coble steps down, he will have served as long as Senator Jesse Helms. He’s done it with constituent services, conservative values and a seemingly honest candor.
“I still have the energy and interest to discharge Congressional duties, but back and skin cancer, are troublesome. Now some of you may disagree with this: mentally and emotionally, I am stable and reliable,” said the 82-year-old Coble earlier this month, when he announced that his 15th term in congress would be his last.
The departure of Coble isn’t the only change for this congressional district. The 6th was re-drawn after the 2010 census and hardly resembles the region Coble used to cover.
"The last round of redistricting reshaped it dramatically. It used to, think of it starting in Greensboro and going several counties south. They basically flipped it. So it begins in Greensboro now and goes several counties north to the Virginia border,” said Wake Forest Political Science Professor John Dinan.
What was a more compact district that included parts of six counties now encompasses 10. It’s slightly less Republican, but still firmly conservative. Because of that candidates are pushing toward the GOP Primary in May. A handful of contenders have already declared and other names are expected to emerge.
"Of the candidates who have announced you would have to say that Phil Berger Junior is a front-runner, has name recognition certainly in Rockingham county and also has broader name recognition given the Berger family name,” added Dinan.
Phil Berger, Sr. is the leader of the State Senate and perhaps the most powerful politician in Raleigh. Berger, Jr. announced his run for congress in front of a sign that simply said “Phil Berger”. The younger Berger is the elected District Attorney in Rockingham County. He has Tea Party ties and wants Obamacare repealed.
“Well look every day I stand up for victims and I stand up for homeowners and the rights to keep and bear arms. I’ve done that and I’ve made the tough decisions; will continue to do that,” he said after announcing his candidacy last week.
Others are also vying for the seat. Pastor Mark Walker got into the race last spring, preparing to take a shot at Coble.
"One of the first things that we need to do is to take a look at the tax code. There are 74-thousand pages of IRS regulations. I think it’s time to really take a hard look at the fair tax slash flat tax model,” said Walker.
Then, there is Greensboro City Councilman Zach Matheny hasn’t officially declared, but calls this race a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"Quite frankly I excel in economic development, planning, strategies working with companies to recruit to our area, figuring out ways to get them to recruit and to locate in the Guilford County/Greensboro area,” said Matheny
According to Professor Dinan Matheny is a bit of an x-factor, if he enters. The Councilman has a legislative record, and is well known in Guilford and Alamance Counties, where nearly half of the 6th district voters live. Whoever ends up in the race, it won’t be cheap. Dinan estimates candidates could spend up to half a million dollars just to get through the primary. And even then the winner, or winners, will have a long way to go.
"North Carolina law says that unless one candidate gets 40-percent of the vote, the second place candidate can request a run-off. When you get up to ten or 12 candidates you’re almost certain to see that possibility of a second-round” explained Dinan.
The likely run-off would precede a fall campaign against the Democratic nominee, and in the end the winning campaign could spend well north of one million dollars. Congressman Coble calls the money in politics obscene. He hopes that some of what he’s done will carry on to the next representative.
“I can’t stress the importance of accessibility too strongly. Constituents are more and more demanding accessibility and I think justifiably so. Many folks have urged me not to endorse. And I’m leaning against endorsing right now. We’ll see how that goes between now and Election Day,” said Coble.