The Easley matter is far from over. The board appears to have uncovered enough evidence to justify felony charges. Federal prosecutors are also reportedly looking into Easley's activities, including his wife's hiring and extraordinary pay raise at N.C. State University. Two questions remain:
1. Is there enough evidence to convict Easley or others in state or federal court?
2. What will be the political fallout from this mess?
In 2008, Democrats got a pass on the shenanigans of party leaders and elected officials. Although former Speaker of the House Jim Black was in federal prison for trading illegal campaign contributions for legislative action and lesser officials were imprisoned or fined, voters elected another Democrat as governor and gave Democrats an unstoppable majority in both chambers of the General Assembly. The turnout for Barack Obama, the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since Jimmy Carter did it in 1976, helped ensure the Democrats' success, but Obama will not be on the ballot next year.
If Republicans can produce viable candidates who will offer an alternative to the usual insider favoritism and flouting of laws and regulations that has been exposed by the Board of Elections hearings, Republicans can make substantial gains in 2010. Gov. Bev Perdue has seen her approval ratings plummet, and Democrats won't have Obama to lead the ticket next year. Republicans will have a real chance next year, but the party has a record of blowing opportunities. Internal fighting and demands for ideological purity have crippled Republicans in the past. Let's see if they can take advantage of the golden opportunity Easley and other Democrats have provided them.