Carney, Curtis in Senate showdown
Denver’s David Curtis is clawing to take the N.C. Senate District 44 seat from Sen. Chris Carney. Carney said he’s more focused on his work in the Senate than campaigning.
But if voters come out to the polls for the July 17 election day, Curtis thinks there’s a good chance they’ll be voting for him.
And if the vote is super close, any votes coming from Lincoln County could make a big difference.
“The voters who do come out should be more informed,” Curtis said. “If you’re an informed voter and know about Chris’s history on the Mooresville City Council, I think I’ve got a good chance at getting your vote.”
Heading into the Fourth of July holiday, Carney said he was more concerned about overriding Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of the state budget than he was about facing Curtis in the election.
“I’m not addressing the other candidates,” Carney said. “I don’t think discussing their philosophy matches up with real action at the state level.”
Carney said his legislative experience gives him an edge over Curtis, because people can understand what kind of legislator he is based on his record as opposed to political ideals espoused by other candidates.
“We’re giving them real action items and how we’re moving the state in the right direction,” Carney said. “That’s important. That’s my campaign.”
But Curtis, a 65-year-old optometrist, thinks it’s Carney’s voting history in Mooresville that could hurt him.
“If you look at (Carney’s) record on the Mooresville City Council, he is not a conservative,” Curtis said. “He voted for MI-Connection.”
Carney cast a vote in 2007 that allowed Mooresville to buy the former Adelphia cable system, sparking the creation of the joint venture with Davidson that never panned out as the towns had hoped.
Demand for the cable services has lagged considerably, leading to revenue shortages and forcing both towns to use tax dollars to make debt service payments.
But that vote didn’t hurt Carney when he earned the Senate seat in the first place.
Republican leaders in Iredell, Gaston and Lincoln counties chose Carney to fill the vacancy after Sen. Jim Forrester’s death Oct. 31, 2011.
Carney and Curtis tied in the vote among 26 leaders in the three counties, but Carney earned the Senate seat because the votes were weighted based on population.
They nearly tied again in the May 8 primary election, when Carney earned 35 percent of the votes, Curtis got 34 percent and former Rep. Karen Ray earned 31 percent.
After the primary, Ray endorsed Curtis for the runoff.
Carney said he would take back his vote concerning the purchase of the old Adelphia system if he could, but he acknowledged the best course of action moving forward is to increase subscribers so MI-Connection can be sustainable.
Carney, 40, describes that vote as a lesson learned about government’s role and how it helped formulate his approach as a state legislator.
“It changed this young politician for the rest of his life in government,” he said.
Carney’s re-election depends
on Lincoln County
When Carney won Forrester’s seat it wasn’t with any help from Lincoln County. Curtis carried all 12 of Lincoln’s votes.
So if Carney expects to be re-elected, he’ll have to convince some Lincoln County voters he’s worth it.
Carney acknowledged Lincoln County citizens didn’t know him that well. They didn’t know what he stood for or what kind of legislator he’d become.
He entered the N.C. Senate with the intent of rolling up his sleeves and helping push through legislation. He opened an office in downtown Lincolnton and began popping up at events in Denver, touting how he helped bring jobs to Mooresville and how he will work to cut bureaucratic red tape to help bring jobs to Iredell, Gaston and Lincoln counties.
Carney outspent Curtis 3-1 in the primary, which Curtis said makes things more difficult for him.
“I don’t have anybody who owed me favors, so my fundraising was a challenge,” Curtis said. “I’m really struggling with fundraising and he’s not. He spent $65,000 in the (May) primary. I spent $22,000.”
Even though Carney significantly outspent Curtis, the two basically tied at the polls.
Curtis has an explanation: “I outworked him. I visited 2,000 homes personally.”
It’s all about turnout
When Lincoln County commission candidates Jim Klein and Cecelia Allran Martin tied in the primary in 2010, only about 4,000 votes were cast in the runoff election. When Curtis and Carney tied in May, more than 25,000 votes were cast.
As the election comes down to the wire, Curtis said it’s all about turnout. The candidate who encourages the most voters to show up to the polls will win.
“If we had another 25,000-vote election, I feel like I’d have a pretty good shot. It’s a real challenge to get people out on a hot summer day and with vacations,” Curtis said. “If Chris gets his supporters out and I don’t, he’ll win.”
Curtis thinks people won’t come out to vote in the middle of the summer, but he’s got a plan. He’s encouraging people to vote absentee by mail.
Carney’s banking on his work in the Senate to carry him through.
“I may be a little behind of getting a message out in the campaign,” Carney said. “But I’m way ahead of getting people to understand what policies we stand for.”
Whoever wins the July 17 runoff will face Denver Democrat Ross Bulla in the November general election.