Walter Dalton's paid political consultants are almost certainly warning him off any direct engagement with his Democratic opponents in the race he's gotten himself into. What they weren't betting on six months ago is that the Lieutenant Governor's race would become the epicenter of a battle for the heart of the party that it's become. Where the smart money might have said that the LG's office was patronage for a party man, the recent media affection for this contest will ensure that this race will only get more energy intensive for all involved.
And I'll tell you, I don't see Walter Dalton walking away with an election that people are actually paying attention to.
So I'm predicting right here that by March the race for this nomination will not be about which of his challengers can come in second to Dalton and meet him in a run-off. I think it's going to be much closer than that, and that we'll see a run-off between two progressives.
The Independent Weekly runs a follow up story today on the article about the LG's race from 11/30.
It wasn't only the candidates' positions on the issues that prompted the Progressive Democrats of N.C. to endorse Dan Besse over Hampton Dellinger for lieutenant governor in the '08 primary. The two—and a third candidate, Pat Smathers—gave similar, "quite progressive" answers on their PDNC questionnaires, says Pete MacDowell, the group's president, and solid speeches at its recent annual meeting in Chapel Hill.
But the group preferred Besse, an environmental activist and second-term Winston-Salem council member, over Durham attorney Dellinger by a 56-16 tally; Smathers, the mayor of Canton in Haywood County, came in third with four votes.
"I think what it boils down to is the fact that Dan has walked his talk for a very long time," MacDowell said this week. "He's been in the trenches on poverty and environmental issues. He is an activist."
(Dellinger worked for) Mike Easley in the attorney general's office, and then as legal counsel to the governor, (which) means he "hasn't been as out there on the tough issues," MacDowell added. "Progressives are less confident about him since he's been in government most of his time, with a pretty conservative governor."
So there's the landscape according to a group of informed progressives. The folks who voted that day factored in biographies, resumes and extensive responses to a long list of questions. Then they heard the candidates speak in a forum that is the closest to a debate we've seen thus far.
For those of us who were there (and I'll BEG lofT and TrueMeckDem to chime in here, please) seeing Pat, Hampton and Dan speak in a responsive way, playing off each other and the audience, was truly exciting and informative.
If you haven't had the opportunity to hear these guys speak yet: Expect to have your expectations shaken. And don't expect Dalton to be the front-runner for long if he continues to sit this one out.