(Update: Well, that didn't take long to organize the "unity" event with Elaine & Cal that's mentioned below. It's on Wednesday — today — at 1 pm at the state Democratic HQ, 220 Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. The world is invited.]
For the second time, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall was a decisive winner in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. The first time, in May, she fell short of the 40 percent mark in a six-candidate field. This time, in a runoff against Cal Cunningham, she wins by a solid 60-40% margin. Election results are here: turnout was a dismal 4.5 percent.
The upshot of Cunningham's insistence on a runoff may be seven weeks wasted for the Democratic nominee. On the other hand, Marshall emerges from it as a stronger figure than she was in May and with a clear message about herself: If elected, she'll devote herself to "defending the interests of the people over the big corporations."
One red herring that should be dispelled: Cal Cunningham did not really run a negative campaign, despite what a lot of the media conveyed in their effort to make Marshall vs. Cunningham sound like the Battle of the Marne. Cunningham was generally positive except for a few digs at Marshall as a career officeholder. He drew no blood, nor did Marshall feel any need to come back at him. As a consequence, they had an amicable conversation tonight, according to Marshall, with Cunningham pledging his "complete support in every aspect of the campaign going forward." She told me that she and Cal and, for that matter, the third-place finisher in May, Durham lawyer Ken Lewis, who is now Marshall's campaign chairman, will hold a unity event in a few days — or as soon as they can put one together.
Marshall is drawing national political headlines as an "insurgent" victor against the Democratic establishment, and that can't hurt.
She couldn't help but mention that, having once beaten Richard Petty for the Secretary of State's job, she has now vanquished the "Washington establlishment" in the form of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which backed Cunningham.
According to Marshall's campaign director Thomas Mills, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was on the phone to Marshall within minutes of the race being declared for her. Reid, Mills said, promised that the Democratic apparatus will now go all out for Marshall.
Marshall enters the race against Republican incumbent Richard Burr, a one-term senator with an unalloyed record of conservatism, as a distinct underdog. But Burr's vulnerability is obvious as a card-carrying member of the Senate's filbuster-happy minority with favorability ratings of 50 percent or less in the polls.
If Marshall can take the campaign to Burr as a senator who only represents the special interests — like Wall Street, BP (Burr said he wouldn't criticize BP) and the insurance companies who fought health-care reform with the GOP at their backs — she may be able to close the gap.
it doesn't look like a Democratic year right now, of course. But June isn't November, and if there's one party that's less popular with the electorate than the Democrats, why, it's the Republicans!
Randall, a Tea Party type, seemed to benefit from charges made by Reeves that he plagiarized his platform, as well as from his own wild speculations about BP and the federal government colluding to cause an oil-rig blowout in the Gulf. Republicans were in no mood for an orthodox candidate who played by the usual rules (you know, stick to the facts, use your own words). They preferred Randall, a candidate whose paranoia about government runs deep. (Deeper than Reeves' paranoia, you ask? Hard to believe, but yes.)
Oddly, Randall will be the second ultra-right wing African-American Republican in a row to challenge incumbent Democrat Brad Miller in the fall. Miller had no trouble two years ago defeating the hyperbolic Vernon Robinson. That was in '08, a big Democratic year, and '10 may not be. And Randall is no Vernon Robinson. He may, in fact, be more far-out.