The race for NC House District 2 is heating up as challenger Bob Steinburg edges out incumbent Tim Spear in the crucial category of individual donations.  To date, Steinburg has raised$12,500 in individual contributions to Spear’s $11,175.  While the difference is slight, this speaks volumes about the discontent in the District over state policies that have done little to spur economic growth.  Policies that in fact have stifled small business, increased taxes and regulation and put Dare County residents in a life or death struggle with the environmentalists.  The stories of corruption out of Raleigh are only adding to voter discontent.

In Dare County, where Basnight and Spear are seen as inseparable, the discontent runs deep.  The $25Million pier in Nags Head has irritated even the locals.   It may be Basnight’s pet project but Spear is along for the ride, for better or worse.  The burdensome plastic bag ban has small business owners scrambling and wondering why Raleigh is imposing costly regulations during a severe economic downturn.  The heavy hand of the environmental lobby is taking a toll on the Outer Banks as beaches are closed and the Bonner Bridge, seventeen years past its useful life, is crumbling with no new bridge in sight.  Basnight, always thought of as the go-to man for his people in Dare County, has not come through for Dare County in these crucial areas but has pushed other pet projects like the worthless ferry to Corolla and the Mid-Currituck Bridge.

Spear has no name for himself in Dare County and relies on Basnight’s reputation for his votes.  That is clearly seen in the number of Dare County contributors to Spear’s campaign.  This year, only two Dare County residents have contributed to the incumbent.  Last election cycle, only eight residents supported Spear with donations.  Much of Spear’s money comes from the Democratic Party and from Political Action Committees (PACs).  Unlike Spear, Steinburg will have to rely on individual donors to fuel his campaign.  It’s not likely that a single PAC will go against the Basnight/Spear machine.  Steinburg is relying on the small donors and it’s clear that the voters are supporting him.  He’s received over 100 individual donations while Spear has received forty.  And Steinburg has received four times the number of donations from Dare County as Spear.  The real fundraising picture, though, is told by the cash on hand.  Spear has over $42,000 in the bank while Steinburg has about $8,000.

There’s no doubt that Basnight will turn on the cash faucet for Spear in the coming months.  But that is going to put a dent in the Basnight campaign kitty.  He is already struggling with cash as evidenced by his cash on hand balance of $717,000.  For the past four election cycles, Basnight’s had over $1,000,000 on hand as of June 30th.  Are donors getting nervous?  Has the Rusty ‘I thought my cat could contriubte’ Carter scandal made an impact?  Will the Hobbs Upchurch investigation scare off  donors?  I think people are starting to see the writing on the wall.  The Republicans stand a good chance to take both the House and Senate in Raleigh and donors are starting to hedge their bets.

So what does this mean for us in Dare County?  Dare County is a must win so expect to see these two candidates a lot over the summer and fall.  Of the four counties in the District, Dare accounts for over half of the 50,000 registered voters.  Spear has faced in uphill struggle here since his appointment in 2006.  In the 2006 non-presidential election, he won Dare County easily with 58% of the vote against a Dare County challenger.  In 2008, though, a presidential election year that saw record turnout and huge Democrat wins,  he won 53% of the vote against a Washington County challenger.  That says something about Spear’s popularity here.  That may be one of the reasons that he recently purchased a home in Kill Devil Hills.  He may be trying to beef up his street cred with the locals.  Steinburg doesn’t have a home here but as much as I’ve seen him around Dare County the past few months, it seems like he does live here.   The significance of this little stretch of sand is not lost on either candidate.

Get ready Dare County, the battle has to begun.