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The better chance to win in November? Why not Walker?
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The better chance to win in November? Why not Walker?

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walker photo with otr 7-11-14

Mark Walker winds up for Tuesday's runoff primary. He and opponent Phil Berger Jr. are both right-wingers and might have trouble winning over moderates in the general election campaign against Laura Fjeld.

The Rhino Times endorsed Phil Berger Jr. in the 6th District Republican runoff, which is fine, but in doing so accused us of being disingenuous in our endorsement of Mark Walker.

The RT endorsement, written by John Hammer, said:

"There is another factor that places Berger head and shoulders above Walker in this race, and that is electability. In the runoff Berger has outpaced Walker in campaign contributions by more than a 2-to-1 margin. The general election is coming up in November, when the Republican nominee will face a well-funded Democratic opponent. Proof of who the Democrats want to run against can be found in the News & Record endorsement of Walker. The N&R doesn’t want Walker to win in November, but the editors there know that Walker, with his limited fundraising ability and his inability to connect with mainstream Republicans, is the easier candidate to beat."

The Rhino's interest in how much campaign money Berger Jr. can raise -- a lot -- could lead me to surmise it made its endorsement based on which candidate might spend more money on Rhino ads during the general election campaign. But I have no foundation on which to form that suspicion.

Neither does Hammer have anything to support his suggestion that we endorsed Walker because we think he'd be more likely to lose to Democrat Laura Fjeld in November.

My own opinion is just the opposite. I think Walker has the better chance for the reasons we stated in our endorsement: He "demonstrates greater depth of thinking on the issues, is open and accessible and seems more likely to at least consider and respond respectfully to other points of view."

Still, who is more electable in November is anyone's guess. Winning the runoff would be a good start, whether that's Walker or Berger Jr.

Hammer notes that Berger led Walker by 34-25 in the May 6 primary. Just a month earlier, Berger's internal poll showed him ahead of Walker by 36-14, so it would seem that Walker gained rapidly. Maybe he's still gaining. We'll find out Tuesday.

While money is unfortunately often a decisive ingredient in elections -- and Fjeld touts her success at fundraising -- we've seen in the Walker-Berger Jr. contest that too much of it from special-interest groups turns off some voters. That's a reason why some Republicans have said they support Walker instead of Berger: They don't want to elect someone who is beholden to wealthy donors. As noted above, Walker seems to be doing pretty well despite having less money.

As we said in the editorial, our choice in the primary was Zack Matheny. I believe he would have carried greater general election appeal, as he's demonstrated in Greensboro politics, by drawing votes from independents and moderate Democrats.

Walker and Berger Jr. are both about as far to the right as it's possible to get in politics. There's virtually no difference between them on the issues, which is why their campaign has gotten personal. I think that makes both potentially vulnerable in a general election, because the bulk of the electorate is just not THAT conservative.

Whether we will endorse either one, or Fjeld, in November is a question that has not been decided. We routinely endorsed the incumbent Republican, Howard Coble. I don't remember the Rhino saying anything about that.

Contact editorial writer Doug Clark at (336) 373-7039 and dgclark@News-Record.com.

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