Catherine Hardee: Summer vacation not a vacation from campaigning

Catherine Hardee: Summer vacation not a vacation from campaigning

There are times when I wonder if a democratic system of government is really worth it. Usually, those times come when I’m answering yet another phone call that turns out to be a political survey or campaign robocall, or watching campaign ads on tv. 

This year was supposed to be a political off year, but for North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District, the sad passing of long-time Congressman Walter B. Jones ensured that we would have a special election to choose his successor. 

I’m sure many here in Eastern North Carolina are wondering along with me if the benefits of a representative government are worth the pain of what seems to have become a never-ending campaign. 

Currently, the active campaigning is for the Republican nomination, with Kinston’s Dr. Joan Perry and Greenville’s Dr. Greg Murphy competing in a runoff election for that honor. Early voting for that race began last week, and, as of Saturday, fewer than 1% of registered voters had made their choice. 

In Lenoir County, that figure was just over 2%, with 345 votes having been cast as of Saturday. In Jones County, only 33 people had voted as of Friday, only 0.9% of registered voters. For Greene County, the number of votes cast was 65 as of Friday, slightly more than 1% of registered voters.

Those figures, of course, are only for the first week of early voting. Election day is not until July 9. But given the prevalence of vacations and packed schedules during the summer, the likelihood is that overall turnout will be low. 

The contest between Perry and Murphy has turned acrimonious at times, with outside groups supporting both candidates airing attack ads whose veracity has been questioned. 

So far though, fewer than 3,000 people across the East have been motivated enough by the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on advertising to cast their votes early. I hope the low turnout does not continue.

Not because I want to encourage politicians and political action committees to continue spending huge amounts of money on attack ads and political polling. I doubt anybody alive thinks that what this country needs is more attack ads. 

But the frustrations of political advertising and polling aside, we are still greatly blessed to be able to choose our representatives. I know that it is trite to say it, but when I read about millions of Chinese Muslim Uighurs being forced into reeducation camps because of their faith, or about the brutal suppression of protests in Venezuela or the numerous other terrible situations around the globe, I am thankful that the worst suffering I endure because of the political system I live under is a barrage of phone calls during an off election year. 

So, I hope the voters of the 3rd district will take a few minutes out of the busy schedule of summer and ensure that the turnout numbers both for the primary runoff and the general election in September do not give anyone cause to worry for the health of democracy in Eastern North Carolina.

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