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Blog Home Page --> House -- North Carolina -- 08

Race To Watch: North Carolina's 8th District

By Kyle Trygstad

It took two tries but Larry Kissell finally won a North Carolina congressional seat in 2008. The underfunded candidate with national party support outperformed Barack Obama to knock off a five-term Republican incumbent in one of the state's few swing districts.

But in a far less welcoming year for Democrats, Kissell enters his first re-election campaign as a top Republican target. And although Harold Johnson hasn't yet made it to the top tier of the GOP's Young Guns campaign organization program, Republicans have what both parties say is a legitimate challenger.

Johnson, a well-known former TV sportscaster in Charlotte, dropped $240,000 of his own money during the primary process, which was extended by seven weeks for a runoff with Tea Party-backed Tim D'Annunzio. The coffers-draining runoff will likely affect Johnson's second-quarter fundraising report, but many expect him to surpass Kissell in the coming months.

Kissell, a former schoolteacher and textile worker, defeated Robin Hayes in 2008 by a 10-point margin, two years after falling just a few hundred votes short of victory. After being outspent four-to-one in 2006, Kissell was again outspent in 2008, this time by more than two-to-one, though that was supplemented by $2.4 million in spending by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

However, the freshman lawmaker may not have as much help this time around, as the well-funded DCCC will need to spread the wealth to save the party's House majority. Kissell also won't have the luxury of Obama at the top of the ticket or his hundreds of organized volunteers blanketing the state.

Continue reading "Race To Watch: North Carolina's 8th District" »

NC 08: Hayes +3

Forget a Democratic poll showing North Carolina Rep. Robin Hayes trailing his opponent by eleven points; the Republican incumbent released his own survey today showing him with a narrow three-point lead. Given an earlier poll conducted for Hayes' campaign, though, the district is definitely tightening.

The new poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies for Hayes' campaign, surveyed 400 likely voters on 9/23 and 9/25 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Hayes and 2006 Democratic nominee Larry Kissell were tested.

General Election Matchup
Hayes......46 (-4 from last, 8/5)
Kissell......43 (+3)

Hayes won by 300 votes in 2006. The rematch doesn't look like the closeness of the contest will change much.

NC 08: Kissell +11

The economic downturn has hit few places as hard as rural North Carolina, where unemployment is above 10%. With the spotlight on the economy, maybe it's not surprising that a new poll conducted for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has their candidate leading incumbent Republican Robin Hayes by a big margin.

The poll, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, surveyed 400 likely voters between 9/28-29 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Hayes and 2006 candidate Larry Kissell were tested.

General Election Matchup
Kissell........54
Hayes..........43

In 2006, Hayes won by just over 300 votes. This year, the DCCC has run ads on Kissell's behalf tying Hayes to President Bush and unpopular trade deals like CAFTA.

NC 08: Hayes +10

Republican Rep. Robin Hayes won his re-election bid in 2006 by just over 300 votes, but this time he could be in better shape against the same Democratic opponent, a new poll conducted for his campaign shows. With Barack Obama seriously competing in the Tar Heel State, though, the district that gave President Bush a nine-point margin in 2004 looks like it will be another close race.

The poll, conducted for Hayes' campaign and the National Republican Congressional Committee by Public Opinion Strategies, surveyed 400 likely voters between 8/4-5 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Hayes and teacher and businessman Larry Kissell, the Democratic nominee, were tested.

General Election Matchup
Hayes..........50
Kissell..........40

McCain.........47
Obama.........42

Hayes retains a good favorable rating, with 51% of the district seeing him in a positive light and 20% viewing him negatively, while Kissell has a ways to go to build his name recognition; just 14% have a favorable impression of the Democrat while 11% see him unfavorably.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is expected to deliver aid to Kissell this year, having reserved a whopping $1.6 million in ad time already. In 2006, the committee didn't spend significantly in the district, an error the party regretted when the race ended in such a narrow loss for Kissell.

Dem Leads NC Rematch

In a rematch of one of the most closely contested races of 2006, high school teacher Larry Kissell is running ahead of Republican Rep. Robin Hayes, a new poll for the Democrat's campaign shows. Two years ago, Kissell, who national Democrats did not pay attention to until late in the cycle, came just 329 votes from knocking off the five-term incumbent.

The poll, conducted for Kissell's campaign by Anzalone Liszt Research, surveyed 600 likely voters between 6/8-14 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Kissell and Hayes were surveyed.

General Election Matchup
Kissell.....................45
Hayes.....................43

Generic Dem...........49
Generic GOPer........32

Hayes is still viewed largely positively, with 50% thinking of his job performance positively and 33% viewing it negatively. But in this district, being a Republican is what keeps Hayes down. President Bush took a nine-point win in the seat, which runs from the Charlotte suburbs to the Fayetteville suburbs, but Barack Obama is ahead of John McCain by a significant 50% to 37% this year.

Add to that the fact that African American voters will make up a much larger portion of the electorate than they did in 2006 and Hayes could face serious problems. Almost 27% of the district is black, and should they turn out in high numbers, Kissell is likely to benefit.

Still, Hayes has a significant cash advantage. The incumbent has $987,000 cash on hand, through April 16, while Kissell had just $131,000 in reserve. In 2006, Hayes outspent Kissell about three to one. The seat is one in which national Democrats' big financial advantage could alleviate an otherwise strong candidate's weak money position.

Return Of The Goat

Democrat Larry Kissell, a high school teacher and former textile worker, fell 329 votes shy of defeating GOP Rep. Robin Hayes in 2006. Kissell is running again this year, and the DCCC is likely to support him more than it did in the previous election.

Through the end of 2007, Hayes outraised Kissell by almost $1 million. When the DCCC steps in, Kissell's financial numbers should rise substantially, though Hayes has the ability to self-finance his campaign if necessary. No other candidates filed for the seat by Friday's filing deadline, so Hayes and Kissell will be able to focus their money and attention on each other.

Outspent 3-1 by Hayes in 2006, Kissell had to get creative to gain attention against the wealthy four-term incumbent. At campaign events during the summer, Kissell appeared with a goat named CAFTA, a reference to the Central American Free Trade Agreement that Hayes supported in 2005. CAFTA was expected to have a negative impact on the textile industry, crucial to the district's economy. Despite stating publicly that he would not support the bill, Hayes cast the deciding vote after party leaders pressed him to switch.

Kissell also made a highly-publicized appearance at a local gas station, where he charged drivers $1.22 per gallon--the price when Hayes first took office in 1999. Kissell pumped gas and paid the difference in cost, as hundreds of cars lined up for the opportunity to buy cheap gas. The move made the national news.

--Kyle Trygstad

Rematch Favors NC Dem

After losing his 2006 bid for Congress by just over 300 votes, teacher Larry Kissell wants another shot at Republican Rep. Robin Hayes. A new poll shows that Kissell starts off in great position to steal the seat; he even leads his opponent, which is extremely rare for a challenger.

The survey is a little old; SEIU and the Center for American Progress hired respected Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research to conduct the poll 11/13-15. 400 likely voters were surveyed for a margin of error of +/- 5%. Kissell and Hayes were tested.

General Election Matchup
Kissell 49
Hayes 47

A generic Democrat leads a generic Republican in the district by a wide 52%-39% margin, while a whopping 58% disapprove of President Bush's job performance. The district, based around I-85 in North Carolina's section of the Piedmont, has been competitive for decades. Hayes won just 56% in his easiest election, in 2004, and barely won his first race, in 1998, despite heavily outspending his opponent. After such a narrow loss two years ago, the DCCC is going to make sure that Kissell is well-funded this year.