Having the Option

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North Carolina faces an unusual problem with its ten Council of State positions. In addition to having a very high number of these regulatory positions chosen by election, low levels of voter interest in their elections means that campaign support comes largely from industries and interests that serve to benefit directly from Council of State decisions. A pilot project of full public financing will be tried out next year for three of the positions, but will it be a big enough test?

Interests actively hunt down candidates and offer them money, putting prospective Councilors of State in a tough position:

“The most fundamental thing is that politicians don’t have options for where to get their money. They are driven into a bad bargain,” said Bob Hall, a campaign-finance watchdog and the executive director of the group Democracy North Carolina.

Offering a public financing option for three of these races -- as North Carolina already does for judicial candidates -- will give some candidates a chance to separate official decisions from campaign cash concerns. However, there are concerns that this pilot program covers three of the least expensive races and so won't be an accurate test of the law's potential efficacy.

We'll have to see what the participation rate is like, and whether it makes an appreciable change in policy or voter turnout. One thing's for sure though: several candidates out there are breathing a sigh of relief at not having to beg money from industries they are meant to regulate.