Robeson County is about as yellow-dog Democrat as you can get. In 1972, while George McGovern was getting destroyed nationwide by Richard Nixon – he was winning comfortably in Robeson County. The county, one of the state’s poorest, features a unique tri-racial population of black, white and Native American voters. For decades, the county has been a cash cow and a vote bonanza for state and national Democrats. But something appears to be changing.
In 2010, Gaston Pridgen became the first Republican elected to represent Robeson County in the General Assembly since Reconstruction. Also that year, David Edge was elected as the first Republican member of the county board of commissioners.
The county’s politics are a throwback to the old machine tactics made famous in Chicago and New York, and in other parts of North Carolina in decades past. To win the county, a candidate needs to please certain community leaders who then turn around and recommend the candidate to their followers. Typically, those recommended candidates are Democrats.
I talked recently with a Robeson politico intimately familiar with the inner workings of the Lumbee political machine in Robeson County. This source tells me this year’s “ticket” — the list of recommended candidates for the county’s Native American voters — will include a number of GOP names.
My source tells me the machine will recommend: Mitt Romney for president, Pat McCrory for governor, Richard Hudson for the 8th Congressional District, and Paul Newby for Supreme Court. My source tells me that an on-going spat with area black leaders will likely lead to significant Native American votes for Republican Dan Forest in the lieutenant governor’s race. (He is running against Democrat Linda Coleman, who is black and is supported by the state’s black political establishment.)
Before everyone gets too excited, I seem to remember that the Elizabeth Dole reelection team thought they were on the “ticket” in Robeson County in 2008. How did that turn out for Mrs. Dole?