A blow to The House of Berger?

There was a lot of good cheer among Raleigh Republicans at the end of primary election day.  Most conservative primary candidates were defeated.  It was looking like another year of business-as-usual in our fair capital city.

With Tim Moore departing for DC and the race for governor up in the air, a lot of talk has centered on how good things were looking for the Rockingham County-based Berger dynasty:  Daddy Phil running things on Jones Street; Phil, Jr. running things on the judiciary side (under daddy’s watchful eye, of course); and other son Kevin keeping an eye on things back home as a Rockingham County commissioner.

But at the end of election night, there was a tad bit of a hiccup.  There was a county commissioner election in Rockingham County.  The top three vote-getters earned seats on the county board.  Kevin Berger, an incumbent, came in FOURTH.

Kevin Berger led the 2023 in-county efforts to bring a casino to Rockingham County.  His dad, the state senate president pro-tem, championed the casino effort at the state level.  The plan in Raleigh to implement casino expansion in North Carolina was pushed as part of the state budget proposal.  One developer, who donated generously to key GOP legislators, would be the beneficiary of the passage of a budget containing the casino language.  Passage of the state budget was delayed for months as grassroots groups besieged both legislative chambers with their protests of the casino deal.  Soon, it became clear that a majority of legislators would not vote for a budget that included casinos.  So, behind the scenes, the casinos were removed from the budget and the budget got passed.

Not much later, we got teased from Jones Street about how casinos could come back from the dead during the post-primary legislative short session.

Fast-forward to February 2024 – just before the primary vote –  where we got THIS:

Hmmmm.  Berger and his son, Kevin, were passionate warriors for the casino deal at the end of last year.  They were both ready to go down with the ship in fighting for casinos.

So, WHY the apparent back-pedaling from senator Phil Berger just before the primary?  Had he realized the casino issue was threatening Kevin’s reelection bid?  Was he trying to throw Kevin a lifeline? 

Kevin Berger came up a mere seven votes short.  Canvassing is still to come.  I know how small-town politics work.  I understand the iron-fisted grip the Bergers have on Rockingham County.  So, I would not be surprised if eight votes for Kevin Berger suddenly materialize.

Canvassing happens on March 15th.  From there, the possibility of a recount could arise.

This development surely makes you reflect back on the pre-primary revelation that senator Berger himself was vulnerable to a primary challenge, thanks to the casino deal.  Sheriff Sam Page, who passed on a Senate run for an ultimately unsuccessful lieutenant governor run, was IDed as a huge potential threat to Berger’s reelection.