The big story in 2016 will be the March 15th Primaries and November 8th General Elections, campaigns that promise to be loud, negative and ugly. The airwaves will be flooded with commercials, making it difficult for challengers to defeat incumbents.
Republican legislative leadership moved all the primaries to March so our state might be a player in determining who gets the party presidential nominations. Their efforts might backfire because the State GOP decided to allocate convention delegate votes proportionally, instead of on a winner-take-all basis. Some major GOP presidential candidates might forego active campaigns here to concentrate on states where they can get a bigger payday. The outcome of the presidential nominations will likely determine November’s winners. If an ultraconservative Republicans is nominated, the 28 percent unaffiliated vote might mark the Democratic ballot at the top and provide coattails for other Democrats.
Look for angry white males to vote in large numbers in Republican Primaries. Several key contests include the U.S. Senate, Gubernatorial and 2nd and 3rd Congressional districts.
Traditional wisdom says Richard Burr and Deborah Ross get the nod for the U.S. Senate, while Pat McCrory and Roy Cooper win the gubernatorial primaries. Josh Stein should win the Democratic Attorney General’s nomination, but the GOP contest between Buck Newton and Jim O’Neill bears watching, as does the Democratic primary for Treasurer between Ron Elmer and Dan Blue, III.
With no organized opposition, the Connect NC Bond campaign will pass, but not by the big margins of past bond referendums. Supposedly non-partisan Court of Appeals elections will see big money trying to influence outcomes. Justice Bob Edmunds will be retained. Look for more partisan decisions by our appellate courts in important cases.
There’s a statistical impossibility that Democrats will win majorities in the legislature, but watch to see if Democrats can gain enough seats to overcome veto-proof majorities in the Senate and House.
The State Board of Education will work to adopt new curriculum standards for public schools, made difficult because the Academic Review Commission failed to recommend reforms in Common Core math and lawmakers interfering in this process.
Our General Assembly convenes in April for “the short session” and we don’t expect major legislation to pass, although the exiting Senate leadership will attempt another round of tax reforms that move us further from an income tax to sales tax system. Lawmakers should have surplus revenues with which to give teachers and state employees 2 to 3 percent pay increases.
New UNC President Margaret Spellings takes office in March and won’t have much of a honeymoon because of residual issues she inherits, as well as organized opposition to her selection. She will focus on affordability, accountability and accessibility for public universities. UNC Chapel Hill will get more NCAA sanctions as a result of the ongoing academic scandal.
Until the second half of 2015, the “Carolina Comeback” was somewhat lackluster but will pick up steam in 2016, just not at the fast pace enjoyed during the go-go 90s.
Medicaid Reform will begin taking shape but nothing dramatic will occur, as DHHS must obtain approval from the federal CMS and it won’t happen in 2016. Medicaid expansion won’t be considered.
Nobody can predict breaking news, weather issues and other events, but 2016 already has many moving parts and should be fun to watch.
Tom Campbell is the Executive Producer and Moderator of N.C. Spin