Democrat Kenneth Spaulding—former North Carolina State Representative and a Durham native—announced his plans last week to run for governor of North Carolina in 2016.
Spaulding’s August 26 announcement comes three years before the election and follows controversial state legislation, including new voter identification laws and decreased education funding. He says that after speaking with his constituents, he believes they are unhappy with the current state government.
“North Carolina can do much better,” Spaulding said. “It is clear that the taxpayers and voters are looking for a reasonable alternative to the extremist positions and actions that have been taken by the Governor and his legislative majority.”
The Republican party took majority control of both houses of the state legislature in 2010—the first time since 1870.
“With a Republican governor recently elected, it has simply exacerbated the problem because there is no one there as a gatekeeper to keep things in check,” said Floyd McKissick Jr., senator for Durham’s District 20.
Spaulding hopes to become a unifying state figure. He served as Durham’s representative in the state House of Representatives from 1978 to 1984. Most recently, he served on the North Carolina Board of Transportation and now serves the Durham area as a private attorney.
“I think this is a time to truly have a good business background and ability to bring people together versus dividing people,” Spaulding said. “Restoring a vibrant business and economic climate is important.”
Spaulding’s agenda also includes stances on job security, education funding, voter rights and women’s rights.
Spaulding’s early announcement for an election that is three years in the future may be a strategy for garnering resources, said Aaron King, lecturer at the Department of Public and International Affairs at University of North Carolina Wilmington.
“Running for office is all about resources—money, endorsements, organizational support, grassroots support,” King wrote in an email Wednesday, noting that by declaring early, a candidate has more time to build a resource base.
He added that incumbents currently elected to a political position have better name recognition and a more adept campaign machine than other contenders. Other candidates need to change minds and reach new voters in a way incumbents do not, King said. He noted that while Spaulding is well known in Durham and the Triangle area, other areas of the state may not be as familiar with him.
Early candidacy announcement offers the benefits of reducing political opposition and acquiring support from unhappy constituents, said D. Sunshine Hillygus, associate professor of political science.
“Announcing early discourages opposition,” Hillygus said.
She noted that subsequent candidates will have to compare themselves to Spaulding, and that alone will likely dissuade some from running.
King added that Spaulding is using polarizing issues such as education funding and voting laws to his favor. People who are unhappy with Governor Pat McCrory or the current Republican majority are looking for a political figure to support. With his announcement, Spaulding has made himself a visible option.
But only time will tell what lies in Spaulding’s future.
“North Carolina has always been known as one of the most progressive states in the South and that does not seem to be the case today—I hope to change that,” Spaulding said.