It may seem like a very short breather, and it is. Relish the next week or so. Because despite the fact that we are at the end of what shaped up to be a pretty intense year of local politics, another year, likely to be even more intense, is fixing to dawn.
The filing period for county commissioner and state and federal legislative races opens Feb. 8. If past is prologue, then prepare to hear pre-announcements by candidates any minute now.
We already know that there will be a scramble of candidates lining up to fill the seat being vacated by state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird. Kinnaird, as you recall, decided not to retire and re-upped for another term in the last cycle. Thatâ€™s not likely to happen twice.
Her opponent in the race, longtime Orange County Commissioner Moses Carey, who now heads up the state Employment Security Commission, closed his campaign committee in October.
So far, there are no announced candidates in the Senate race. Look for that to change very quickly, as fundraising in the increasingly expensive legislative races will be a pressing priority.
In the county commissionersâ€™ race, we already know that Mike Nelson is not going to seek re-election. You may recall that Nelson announced a run for the Senate seat and then withdrew when Kinnaird said sheâ€™d run again.
In a county that is dominated by Democratic Party voters and independents that lean that way, the hot commissioner contests are in the May primary. With an expanded commission, a new election district and an energized GOP, some of that heat is likely to be transferred to November. (For the same reason, in the fairly stable state House districts, we may actually see Reps. Joe Hackney and Verla Insko afforded the opportunity of competition.)
The terms of long-serving commissioners Alice Gordon and Barry Jacobs also are up in 2010.
Should the pair decide to run again, they, along with any others who step up, will have to figure out whether to run in one of the two districts or as an at-large candidate. Jacobs lives in District 2 and Gordon in District 1. There was quite a bit of behind-the-scenes discussion among the candidates last time around over this issue.
Another twist: In the primary, only residents of a district may vote for a commissioner candidate of their political party running in that district. In the general election, all voters have a choice of candidates in both districts and at-large. Got that?
In federal elections, the top of the ticket is dominated by a highly contested and soon-to-be-nationalized U.S. Senate race. Several polls and pollsters put Sen. Richard Burr on the endangered incumbents list. Prior to the main bout, expect a bruising Democratic primary between Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (whose campaign is being advised by Carrboroâ€™s Thomas Mills), Durham Attorney Ken Lewis and former state Sen. Cal Cunningham.
House races are perhaps a little safer for incumbent Democrats David Price (NC-4) and Bob Etheridge (NC-2). But that doesnâ€™t mean those races will be dull. Price has said he will never forget the lesson he learned in 1994, when he lost his seat by about 1,000 votes.
The GOP recently announced it would seek a return of its revolution of 1994 by running a national campaign to take back Congress and overturn the health care reform legislation thatâ€™s on the verge of passing.
Meanwhile, the Dems are planning to run on, you guessed it, stopping the GOP from taking over Congress and repealing health care reform.
If you need any more indication of where this is going, just check out the website of George Hutchins, who is seeking the nomination in an already-crowded GOP primary for the chance to unseat Price. Hutchinsâ€™ site features extensive use of all caps and exclamation points and posters from the movie The Alamo, an attack on the â€œsocial engineeringâ€ brought on by the Civil Rights Act and a call to â€œstart the legal war against Obama Nation.â€
No, friends, this wonâ€™t be a dull year at all.