Not long ago, I posted on the challenge North Carolina represents for President Obama who won the state in 2008 and badly needs it in his column again.
I mentioned a New Yorker piece by Jane Mayer on Art Pope, the conservative North Carolina businessman who has reshaped his state's politics more towards his GOP leanings by bankrolling a number of campaigns and think tanks.
A campaign he's put some emphasis on is a race for a seat on the Wake County school board. The county is home to the city of Raleigh.
The school board's bare GOP majority in 2009 discarded a policy that used family income to try and create greater diversity in its schools.
As Dave Dewitt of NPR-member station WUNC reported for Morning Edition, Democrats hope to turn things around by winning a seat next Tuesday and gaining a board majority.
As Dave reported, some of the Democratic campaign against the Tea Party-affiliated candidate, Heather Losurdo, has been fairly negative:
During the campaign, a group called Progress NC Action has publicized her 20-year old personal bankruptcy, a job she held at a strip club in 1993, and her positive reaction to a racist joke her husband posted about President Obama on Facebook. None of those are likely to play well with voters in her district - suburban north Raleigh.
(Losurdo defended herself against those attacks on a local radio show as reported by the newsobserver.com.)
A political scientist Dave quotes, David McLennan at William Peace University in Raleigh, explains that the race, hyperlocal as it is, may become something of a tell-tale to indicate the direction of the political winds in North Carolina for next year's state-wide and presidential races. President Obama has sent numerous signals that he wants to win North Carolina in 2012 badly, just as he won it in 2008.
And here's an indicator of the race's importance, as Dave reports it:
Before 2009, a candidate for Wake County School Board spent roughly $10,000 during a campaign. This year, the combined spending has already surpassed a half-million dollars. It's a dramatic increase and a precursor to how much money is expected to roll into the 2012 elections from the president on down.
Again, a useful snapshot of how even the smallest of government offices are seen as big prizes in our highly partisan politics.