Marshall stumps in Belhaven

Published 10:32 am Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Staff Writer

BELHAVEN — N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall spent at least two hours here Monday afternoon during a fundraiser-reception at a wine shop-restaurant in the downtown area.
Marshall is one of three leading Democrats hoping to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., in the Nov. 2 general election.
The other two leaders in the field are Ken Lewis, an attorney from Chapel Hill, and Cal Cunningham, a former state senator.
One of those three candidates will likely be nominated to run against Burr. The nomination will occur during the May 4 primary election.
Cunningham was ahead of Marshall in fundraising at last report, and his campaign has announced that it is airing a television commercial.
Marshall is the only one of the three candidates to appear at a public function in Beaufort County this year.
Though just around 20 people were in attendance for the first hour, Monday’s event resulted in approximately $3,000 to $5,000 being raised for the Marshall campaign, according to Surry Everett, a former chairman of the Beaufort County Democratic Party.
Some of the donors were unable to attend, Everett said, adding that average individual donations ranged from $250 to $500.
Everett organized the happening in cooperation with Yvonne Sedgwick and James McKelvey, co-owners of the venue.
“She’s the best candidate for the job,” Everett said of Marshall.
He added that, as secretary of state, Marshall has won three statewide elections.
If voters present for Monday’s event were sure that Marshall is the candidate to beat, voters statewide seemed less certain.
Marshall continues to carry a lead in a poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling, but her lead isn’t large enough to warrant saying she has a lock on front-runner status.
In the poll, Marshall comes in at 23 percent, with Cunningham second at 17 percent and Lewis third at 9 percent. Lesser candidates have a combined 5 percent, PPP reports.
“The candidates continue to be pretty unknown,” reads a PPP news release. “61% of voters have no opinion about Marshall, 80% are ambivalent toward Lewis and 85% are the same toward Cunningham. There’s been basically no movement in those numbers over the last few months.”
Though Marshall is the continuing poll leader, “the high level of undecideds means there could be a large shift in voter preferences over the final three weeks” before the primary, Dean Debnam, president of PPP, is quoted as saying in the release.
The polling entity surveyed 401 voters likely to mark ballots in the Democratic primary. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.
Marshall’s visit to Beaufort County came on the day before the poll was released, and on the day that Lewis’ campaign announced he had been endorsed by former U.S. Rep. Eva Clayton, D-N.C.
Lewis and Cunningham have unveiled a string of high-profile endorsements recently.
Cunningham has won the backing of the Teamsters, and of retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a former Democratic presidential candidate.
Marshall’s campaign has been endorsed by three national women’s groups, including the National Organization for Women.
Marshall was asked why her two closest opponents keep scoring these endorsements even though she’s in the lead, poll-wise.
“I have been picking up a lot of endorsements also, and there are going to be some more coming,” she replied. “You’re never going to get all of the endorsements, so I’m pleased with what I have.”
Marshall was asked whether it rankled her that a labor endorsement was picked up by Cunningham, even though she is seen as a pro-labor candidate.
“We had the interviews here and the North Carolina folks decided not to endorse,” she said. “What you saw was different than that.”
Finally, Marshall was asked whether she is seeing a hoped-for enthusiasm among voters.
“That’s not the question,” she commented. “I’m talking about for the fall. … It is an off-year election, and it’s always going to be a lower turnout. I’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm with folks who know it’s going to be an election.”
She added that she came to Belhaven at the behest of “good friends” and was scheduled to be in Greenville later Monday evening.
Among the local dignitaries on hand Monday were District Attorney Seth Edwards and his father, former state Rep. Zeno Edwards, D-Beaufort; Beaufort County Commissioner Robert Cayton, a Democrat; and Alice Mills Sadler, chairwoman of the Beaufort County Democratic Party.