OAKBORO, N.C. -- Incumbent Congressman Rep. Larry Kissell, challenger Richard Hudson and Scott Keadle were at the Fourth of July Main Street parade in Oakboro last week. Keadle, the Mooresville dentist, is locked in a bitter runoff with Hudson to be decided Tuesday.
Keadle is prominently featured in a series of television ads.
The TV ads look like they came from the candidates. Positive or negative, they prominently feature the candidates names and faces. But they are NOT candidate ads. They come from outside, so-called "third party" groups. And they are flooding the airwaves leading up to Tuesday's runoff election in the Republican primary for North Carolina's eighth congressional district, currently occupied by Democrat Larry Kissell.
This week two conservative groups more closely affiliated with the established leadership of the House dumped almost $200,000 into anti-Keadle, pro-Hudson ads. The last minute move is a response to months of ads in which outside groups supporting Keadle have outspent Hudson almost five to one.
Most of the pro-Keadle and anti-Hudson ads are paid for not by his campaign but by an outside group, the Club for Growth.
"The Club for Growth is an organization of 75,000 individual conservatives across the United States," Keadle explained following a televised debate. "They picked me because they know me and they know Richard. And they picked me even after Richard interviewed with them, begged for their support, had congressmen calling on his behalf. He didn't get the Club for Growth because he's not a conservative."
"When you've got a runoff in July it's going to be a low turnout so to me it's more important that I touch voters directly," said Hudson. "You've got a lot of ads being paid for by groups out of DC but don't think they're going to have the impact. I think the people here know me. They know my history so we're working hard to turn the vote out."
This year Republican state lawmakers re-drew the boundaries of the eighth Congressional district so Rep. Kissell looks even more vulnerable. Kissell is counting on his lengthy personal connection to the district.
"I grew up in this district," Kissell said. "I grew up in Montgomery County. I've worked in the textiles. I've taught school. My resume is the resume of the district. I represent the district and if I do that, I do my job, then I'll be OK."
All three men-who-would-be-Congressman said they are just like the people who line the parade route. Hudson worked for the former Congressman in the eighth district, Robin Hayes, and Keadle has tried to use that against him.
"Richard is a creature of Washington," Keadle said. "He's of Washington and his whole purpose is to get himself a job."
But Hudson said his work in serving constituents will help him in a close runoff.
"For six years I was on the road meeting people and interacting with folks and solving problems in all the communities in this district," said Hudson. "So I have really strong ties because of the time I worked for Robin."
The eighth district race is so tight and the turnout expected to be so small that the number of people who lined the July 4 parade route in Oakboro could well make the difference.