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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cal Cunningham & Elaine Marshall Fighting For Run-Off Election Votes (Sharp Jabs!)

Jabs Sharpen In N.C. Democratic Primary Run-Off Race For U.S. Senate Spot

Democratic Senate candidate Elaine Marshall was so perturbed that Cal Cunningham accused her of wanting to raise the retirement age for Social Security that she sicced her 90-year-old mother on him.

"The guy running against her should be ashamed of himself for saying things that just aren't so," Pauline Folk said in a recorded telephone message that recently went to Democratic households. "Anyone who knows Elaine will tell you that she's 100 percent committed to protecting Social Security."

The robocall is a sign of the new, more strident tone of the Democratic Senate primary heading into the final two weeks before the June 22 runoff.

For the past six months, the Democratic primary has often resembled a polite debating society. Since the May 4 primary narrowed the field from six candidates to two, the race has gotten so rough that party leaders worry that the eventual nominee could emerge bruised.

"It's incumbent upon the parties to become diligent in exercising self-restraint," said former state Democratic chairman Jerry Meek, a Charlotte lawyer. "Anything they say will be used by Richard Burr against the ultimate winner."

The new tone could mean sharper jabs when the two meet for televised debates tonight and Tuesday.

Much of the criticism has been below the radar, because neither candidate has the money to wage a full-scale television campaign.

For the most part, Cunningham, the 36-year-old Lexington lawyer and former state senator, has been the aggressor, seeking to plant doubts about Marshall through mailings and e-mails.

Marshall, the 64-year secretary of state, led the first primary 36 percent to 27 percent, putting Cunningham in the position of having to change the chemistry of the race.

"The tone of our campaign hasn't changed," said Thomas Mills, strategist for Marshall. "We are still focused on taking on Washington and taking on Wall Street and the insurance companies. The Cunningham campaign has decided to take the low road and use half-truths and misrepresentations to attack Secretary Marshall."

Cunningham's goal, Mills said, is to suppress the turnout of Marshall voters.

The Cunningham campaign argued that Marshall has been critical of Cunningham from the beginning, even questioning his right to enter the Democratic primary.

"This is an election, not a coronation," said Jared Leopold, Cunningham's spokesman.

"The runoff is about issues, and there are real differences in policy. Cal Cunningham will fight Republican efforts to raise the Social Security retirement age; Elaine Marshall will not."

It was almost inevitable that the tone of the campaign would turn, Meek said.

"In a run-off it's a zero sum, head to head and it typically becomes ugly in that situation," he said.

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Sources: McClatchy Newspapers, WCNC, WRAL, Google Maps

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