The big question is whether Rep. Bob Etheridge cab keep the frontrunning Dalton under 40 percent. If no candidate reaches a 40 percent "substantial plurality," a summer runoff is triggered for the top two finishers. In January, Gov. Bev Perdue, who was struggling in the polls, announced that she would not seek a second term. Her decision triggered a scramble to succeed her, with Dalton and Ehteridge jumping in the race, and state Rep. Bill Faison, a longer shot candidate who had already announce he was running, remaining in the mix. Notably, a number of big name Democrats including Erskine Bowles and Anthony Foxx declined to run. Dalton led the Democratic fundraising chase and won the bulk of most prominent newspaper endorsements, including from the Charlotte Observer, Winston-Salem Journal, Greenville Daily Reflector, Independent Weekly and Southern Pines Pilot. The Asheville Citizen-Times, which endorsed McCrory over Perdue in 2008, has stayed out so far. Dalton took a light-hearted approach in his first TV ad with a commercial that repeated his name over and over, just like his debut ad for lieutenant governor in 2008. Etheridge's candidacy could be summed up in a single word: education. In fact, he's running so hard on the issue that his first television ad identified him as "former superintendent of schools" and never mentioned his 14-year tenure in Congress. His federal career ended in 2010 when he lost re-election to GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers following a caught-on-video confrontation with a Republican tracker. Etheridge struck a partisan tone in both of his TV ads, tasking the GOP-controlled state legislature each time and linking himself to Obama in one spot.
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