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Candidates With More Cash Could Have Advantage In Election Impacted By COVID-19

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Millions of dollars are pouring into the political campaigns that will ultimately determine control of the North Carolina Legislature.

Recent campaign finance reports indicate an edge for many Democratic candidates in competitive races. Western Carolina University Political Science Professor Chris Cooper says a healthy bank account may have an added layer of importance in 2020.

“So, I think in some ways fundraising is going to be more important in a COVID-19 environment where the more important, but tradition, effective forms of communication just aren’t possible,” Cooper said.

Some candidates for the state Legislature are touting large campaign war chests. A Democratic House candidate in Wake County has some $300,000 in available cash. The same is true for a New Hanover County Republican running for a seat in the state Senate.

Cooper expects potential voters to see a lot of the money spent online.

"Of course in a COVID-19 environment where you can’t really press the flesh really well, you’ve to go figure advertising – particularly digital advertising is going to matter more than it ever has,” Cooper said.

Democrats are trying to reclaim one or both chambers of the General Assembly. And a cash advantage in several competitive races has provided some renewed optimism. State lawmakers earn just shy of $14,000 a year, but millions will ultimately be contributed as both parties seek control and the power to lead the next round of redistricting in 2021

Cooper says door-knocking, town halls and larger campaign rallies are expected to be less frequent. Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly.  Democrats need to net five seats in the Senate and six in the House to take control.

Next year, the Legislature will preside over another round of redistricting for legislative and Congressional seats.

Jeff Tiberii is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Jeff joined WUNC in 2011. During his 20 years in public radio, he was Morning Edition Host at WFDD and WUNC’s Greensboro Bureau Chief and later, the Capitol Bureau Chief. Jeff has covered state and federal politics, produced the radio documentary “Right Turn,” launched a podcast, and was named North Carolina Radio Reporter of the Year four times.
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