An Upset Bid Democrats Won’t Ignore This Time
Voters in the mostly working-class precincts of south-central North Carolina that connect Charlotte and Fayetteville were faced with a study in opposites in their candidates for Congress last year. The Democratic challenger was Larry Kissell, a social-studies teacher who also spent 27 years in midlevel jobs in a hosiery mill. The Republican incumbent was Robin Hayes, a millionaire hosiery mill owner and descendent of one of the region’s founding families. Despite being outspent 3-to-1 and being cut off from support from party headquarters in Washington, Kissell managed to come within 329 votes of one of the year’s biggest upsets — and created the second-closest House race in the country.
This time around, Democrats are betting heavy — and betting early — on Kissell.
A shrewd campaigner, Kissell leveraged a significant amount of free publicity through events such as his summertime gasoline sale, in which he offered to make up the difference between the pump price in North Carolina in August 2006 ($2.89 a gallon) and the price when Hayes took office in 1999 ($1.22).
Although factors were adding up to make the seat a possible takeover target, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent a paltry $31 — out of a $64 million independent expenditure budget — on the race.
Kissell remains outgunned in head-to-head fundraising, however. In the first six months of the year, he raised $160,000, compared with $496,000 by the incumbent.
Kissell also could face a challenge from up-and-coming state Rep. Rick Glazier, although the DCCC has said it will support Kissell against intraparty contenders. And top-ballot races — for president, governor and the Senate — could overshadow the congressional race. “Kissell vs. Hayes will involve several thousand voters — maybe tens of thousands of voters — who did not participate in 2006, and Republicans in this state and in the South tend to do better in presidential election years,” Guillory said.
Kissell said that although the new attention from Washington is nice, he’s focused on his own efforts to win. “It’s just not a job that’s done,” he said. “We didn’t win, so we’re not affecting policy. . . . It’s just the halfway point, it continues on.”
"A shrewd campaigner" - I like that. Keep the heat on, Larry.