Feb 6, 2024 - News

Frontrunners in NC's top races rake in the cash

A combination of images of Attorney General Josh Stein (left) and Lt. Governor Mark Robinson (right).

Attorney General Josh Stein (left) and Lt. Governor Mark Robinson (right). Photos: Olivier Douliery/AFP and Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

North Carolina is one month away from the March 5 primary election, and candidates in the state's highest profile statewide races have raised loads of cash.

Why it matters: Money is the name of the game in politics, and the latest campaign finance filings show us that the frontrunners in North Carolina's gubernatorial and attorney general races have lots of it.

  • More cash doesn't necessarily guarantee an electoral win, but it's a major advantage, giving high profile candidates an edge over their opponents who have less name recognition, entered the race later or have brought in less cash.

By the numbers: Every year, North Carolina's races get more and more expensive, and this year's top races are expected to break records once again.

Between the lines: These candidates sure seem to believe they've already won their primary elections.

  • All four have so far spent just a fraction of what they've raised so far — likely in an effort to save up for a highly competitive showdown in November.
  • Not only that, they're not doing much advertising or events, or running aggressive media campaigns just yet.

Meanwhile, each of the above candidate's primary opponents lag behind in terms of fundraising — a disadvantage that will be hard to overcome.

  • Bill Graham, a Republican lawyer running for governor, is the only candidate who has come within striking distance of a frontrunner. He brought in $2.5 million, though almost all of that is money he loaned himself. He's also spent almost all of that, and has just $162,000 in the bank now.
  • Former state Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan, a Democrat running against Stein in the gubernatorial primary, has just $32,000 on hand. He's also loaned himself close to $11,000.
  • Durham District Attorney Satana Deberry, who's running against Jackson in the Democratic primary for attorney general, has less than $31,000 on hand. (Worth noting: The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People endorsed Deberry over Jackson, in the primary, which could give her a much-needed boost.)

For perspective, more than a million North Carolinians together owe about $51 billion in student debt, as of June 30.

  • Top candidates have a total of around $19 million in cash on hand right now — enough to forgive the average amount — $38,000 per borrower — for 500 North Carolinians.

The bottom line: It's looking like some of North Carolina's most important primary election outcomes may be over before they even start. But anything can change in a month, and having the most money doesn't always translate to a win.

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