Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Odd-year elections are oddities

It is election day, but in North Carolina, these odd-year elections usually don't count for much. The only items on the ballot are municipal elections. In my case, the City Council election is moot — the incumbent in my district is unopposed.

Some other states have chosen to hold their statewide elections in odd years. Gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia are closely watched today. When I edited a newspaper in Virginia for a couple of years in the 1970s, I had to make the adjustment to following elections every single year. No sooner would the national election for Congress be completed than the state election for state offices would begin. It was like watching a football game with no halftime break, but after every quarter two new teams would take the field.

I found Virginia politics lively and interesting. Chuck Robb, Lyndon Johnson's son-in-law, was running for lieutenant governor that year. I later watched Robb, a former Marine officer, preside over the state Senate with the commanding presence and decisive quickness of a drill sergeant. Republicans had been resurgent in Virginia and were on the cusp of taking over the state entirely during the Reagan years. Robb won a gubernatorial race in 1981 and later won a U.S. Senate seat, but he has faded into oblivion.

This year's gubernatorial race sounds like it's as hard-fought as the contests of the 1970s. Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of Bill Clinton, appears poised to win back the governor's mansion for the Democrats. It has been 33 years since I moved out of Virginia. Events there are barely on my radar screen, and I cannot remember the names of the movers and shakers I knew so long ago. Still, I enjoy visiting the commonwealth and its charming and historic capital city, and each odd-year election brings back memories.

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