Democratic vice-presidential candidate and Virginia senator Tim Kaine emphasized North Carolina’s role in the upcoming political election at a rally Thursday.
Held at North Carolina Central University, the event marked the start of early voting in North Carolina, a state which has held a pivotal role in previous presidential elections and is expected to make its mark this year as well. During his speech, Kaine introduced several local democratic candidates running for key positions, including Deborah Ross, a senatorial candidate, and G.K. Butterfield, an incumbent in the House of Representatives. Kaine said he felt that the recent controversy behind House Bill 2 and legislature to suppress voter registration were not representative of North Carolina at large.
“I know so many people in North Carolina who care about this state and this state’s reputation,” Kaine said to the audience. “You want to be known for who you are—a progressive state. You have leadership at the state level that has made North Carolina known for things that isn’t really who North Carolina is.”
According to RealClearPolitics, Hillary Clinton, Kaine’s presidential running mate, leads in North Carolina by an average of 2.8 points, reflecting a general upward trend since the beginning of October. Kaine said he had experienced some of North Carolina’s enthusiasm for Clinton earlier that morning during campaign stops at early–voting booths in Charlotte and Apex.
On election day, he said, North Carolina’s electoral decision could signal the victory of Clinton, who has made several visits to the state during the past year.
“North Carolina, you guys are more than a battleground, you’re checkmate state,” he said. “If we can win North Carolina for Hillary Clinton, we’re going to win the whole thing.”
Grant Hill, seven-time NBA All Star and two-time Duke national champion, introduced Kaine during the event, explaining how Clinton had befriended his mother during her studies at Wellesley College, where his mother was one of only a few black students. Clinton’s willingness to advocate for his mother, Hill said, exemplified her as a role model with a strong track record.
Hill later spoke about how he could relate his experiences on the Duke basketball court to voting in the election, both being chances for him to work out his priorities in life.
He also mentioned Duke and men's basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski, earning a round of applause from Kaine and the audience.
Also addressing NCCU’s student crowd, Kaine spoke about how their energy in the presidential election had made an impact at the state level.
“North Carolina is a little bit different than any of the other states this cycle, ” he said. “Normally in a presidential year, the presidential race brings out all the energy and excitement, and that excitement actually filters down and helps local races too. In North Carolina, there are also such important local races for the senate and the governor, that there is actually kind of an upward draft that is even helping us at the top.”
Kaine continued to explain how Democrats in North Carolina had made a strong impression during his visits, highlighting a "grassroots" movement to raise funds for the state’s Republican party after their headquarters were vandalized last week.
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At the local level, Ross is behind incumbent senator Richard Burr by 2.8 points, according to polls from RealClearPolitics, while Democrat Roy Cooper leads governor Pat McCrory by 0.5 points in his race.
Although Kaine acknowledged current polling estimates, he encouraged voters at the event to continue fighting for their favorite candidates despite the odds. This idea is especially important to Clinton, who he said had been discouraged from running for office throughout her whole life because of her gender and political vision.
“I’m the underdog until they call me the winner,” he said, citing his motto for overcoming the odds.