Thursday, January 09, 2020

The Elections of March: Democrat Aimy Steele Has This, But Which Republican Will She Face in November?

NC House District 82 -- Cabarrus County

Republican incumbent Linda P. Johnson was first elected to the NC House District 83 in 2000 and was reelected in that district until redistricting turned it into District 82, and she was reelected in that district until she decided to retire ahead of the 2020 elections. She didn't publicly announce her decision to retire until December 19, though she had let her chosen successor know. Ultimately, three Republicans filed to replace her. Two Democrats also want the seat, which is now rated "Lean Republican" with a predicted Republican vote-share of 55.70% (even though the most recent redistricting removed 1.60% of that Republican base).

The Democrats

Aimy Steele ran for this seat against Linda Johnson in 2018 and did not stop running for a re-match throughout 2019 and into 2020. She's a 40-year-old Gen-X-er born in 1970. In 2018, Steele left her job as principal of Beverly Hills STEM Elementary School in Concord, N.C., to run unencumbered for the NC House. She out-performed Democratic expectations, earning 47.25% of the vote and losing to incumbent Johnson by 1,978 votes out of almost 36,000 total votes cast. (As of January 2018 there were 62,444 registered voters in the district. More on that number below.)
Steele announced way back in January of 2019 year that she "wouldn't be returning to the school house" because she intended to try again in 2020, "buoyed by her experience as a candidate and what she learned along the way." I went back to read what I wrote about Aimy Steele in 2018. Based on her personal history, I called her a "wonder woman," but I also acknowledged the giant windmill that an entrenched incumbent like Linda Johnson was going to represent. I titled the piece "Donna Quixote."
FlipNC rated the 82nd in its second tier of 2020 most flippable districts, saying they expect Democratic prospects to improve there by 3 points in 2020. I dunno. Michael Bitzer's calculation about the new district is included above in the headnote in the last sentence. Still a big windmill for Aimy Steele to tilt against.
But lookee here: In the 2018 election, some 26,484 registered voters didn't bother to show up in District 82. A total of only 35,960 votes were cast, out of 62,444 registered voters. Wow. That's an untapped source for any candidate who can stir some enthusiasm among the disaffected, the uninterested, the turned-off voters of Cabarrus. That poor voter turnout in 2018 appears to be not just typical of off-year elections in the 82nd, but plain typical. Turnout was higher in 2016, a presidential year, but not that much higher -- 42,636 total votes cast. Still a lot of disengaged votes left on the table (though clearly, from her losing margin in 2018, Aimy Steele got to some of them).
When Steele launched in January last year, she told Education Week that she would be using "two of the biggest lessons from the 2018 campaign to guide her this time around: start fundraising early and have a better ground game, with early organization and door-knocking in neighborhoods and precincts." With reference to the first, I intend to contribute to her campaign. (She's incidentally also been endorsed by Lillian's List and by the new Long Leaf Pine Slate.) With reference to the 2nd, "better ground game" is music to my ears. Retail politics. Knock on those doors of voters who aren't typically voting.
But first, you've got to find them. I hope Steele has a talented computerized data operative as well as a finance director.

William F. Pilkington is a 68-year-old Baby Boomer and retired CEO and Public Health Director of the Cabarrus Health Alliance, a 38-year job experience that's impressive on the face of it and under normal circumstances might look like a good foundation on which to build a political campaign. But considering Aimy Steele's commitment and past performance, I can't help thinking of Mr. Pilkington's entry into the primary as something akin to a "spoiler" candidacy. 
Because he seems utterly unprepared for a campaign. I haven't found a scrap of campaign infrastructure -- no website, not even a Facebook page. He's the invisible man, and white to boot, which suggests a certain assumption of privilege which I hope I'm completely wrong about.

The Republicans

Here's where it gets interesting, because there's an "anointed one" and a couple of insurgents who evidently didn't get the memo.

Parish Moffitt, the "anointed one," is a 45-year-old Gen-X-er born in 1974 who's been incumbent Linda Johnson's Cabarrus "liaison," which seems to mean that he represented her at meetings she didn't want to attend. He says that Johnson recruited him to run in her place, and she put out an endorsement message for him on the same day that she announced her retirement -- Dec. 18, near the close of candidate filing. If that late announcement was meant to keep down the competition, the plan didn't work.
Moffitt says he's an American Airlines pilot who also owns Aero Crews LLC, which appears to be mainly a pilot employment agency. His website is de minimis on content, so if you're looking for his political philosophy, the plastering of the word conservative will have to do as answer to all your questions. Oh, okay, say no more.
He has a Facebook page where he wears "Endorsed by Rep. Linda Johnson" like a beauty pageant sash.
I reckon this Republican primary will be a test of the power and influence of Linda P. Johnson, because Parish Moffitt hasn't offered much on his own.

Kristin Baker is a 56-year-old Baby Boomer born in 1963 and a psychiatrist with impressive credentials. She was Morehead Scholar who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Chapel Hill and went on to earn her medical degree from the UNC School of Medicine. She's been practicing for over 20 years and has served as medical director for Hospice of Cabarrus County. On her Facebook page, she wants you to know that she's a "Pro-Life Psychiatrist," which conjures for me certain memes that fill me with hilarity. Also fun: her campaign slogan of "Rooted. Ready. Real." Those periods are like thunderclaps, aren't they? 
She also parades the word conservative even more than does Parish Moffitt. "Conservative, conservative, conservative." But she throws in, for good measure, "political outsider," perhaps in reaction to the political annointment of Parish Moffitt for the seat by an incumbent who's perhaps been incumbent for too long.

Judge Hamby in 2012, with Marco Rubio
William G. Hamby Jr. is a 63-year-old retired chief district judge (first elected in 1993) and a boomer. He's been an attorney in Cabarrus County since 1983 and is perhaps resting on the laurels of a long legal career because he hasn't bothered to establish any campaign infrastructure for inquiring political minds -- no website, no Facebook page, no nuttin. If he offers any contrast to the above two, it's impossible to know it.
His retirement in 2018 occasioned a thumbnail biographical sketch about him in the Concord Independent Tribune:
"Judge Hamby has dedicated his entire adult life to public service. After Graduating from UNC- Chapel Hill, he began his career as a middle school teacher until he was called for jury duty for a second degree murder trial. This piqued his interest in the judicial system and led him to alter dramatically his life’s plans. He applied and was accepted to Wake Forest University Law School, where he graduated in 1983.
"After graduation, Judge Hamby moved to Cabarrus County and opened a thriving law firm. He then ran and was elected as a Cabarrus County Commissioner, where some of his most notable successes included improving the tourism industry, creating the Concord Regional Airport and building water supply stations throughout the county."
Sounds like a reasonable guy. The NCGOP could use more judicial temperaments.
Hamby served as a North Carolina delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2012 and helped nominate Mitt Romney for the presidency. He doesn't look like a Trumper. But is his mojo distinguished enough in Cabarrus to overcome the anointed one and the pro-life psychiatrist? 

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