I ran into Eric Fink in downtown Greensboro last week as he and a campaign staffer talked strategy at the Green Bean.
Fink has been a reliable voice for working people and a dependable expert source in our journalism for years, and now he’s making a move to run against state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger Sr. by petitioning his way onto the ballot in Rockingham County and the parts of Guilford that fall into District 26. He’ll need 5,000 signatures of voters in the district to make it happen. With a seasoned crew of organizers on the team, he says he’s well on his way.[pullquote]Remember, too, that in 2008, Kay Hagan took Rockingham away from incumbent US Sen. Elizabeth Dole by about 100 votes.[/pullquote]
He told me that his candidacy started out as a statement of sorts: Part of the problem we’re having in our state is that the entrenched powers often run unopposed. Sen. Berger is currently serving his eighth term in the state Senate. Before Fink stepped up, he was running unopposed, as he did in 2010, 2008 and 2004. In 2002 he faced a Libertarian candidate. Against weak Democrats, though, Berger’s fared pretty will, usually winning by 20 points or so — in 2012 that meant about 20,000 votes, with fewer than 100,000 participating in the election.
But that means that Berger has won fully half of his elections without serious competition. Seeing this, Fink started to believe he might have a chance. His time in in the district, where he’s lived for almost a decade, has only strengthened this belief.
And while I never really thought of Fink as a candidate — for starters, he’s got to lose the name — it does make a sort of sense.
In an election year where outsiders are looking to topple legacy candidates all over the board and where, in North Carolina anyway, it seems just about anything can happen, Fink could even win it, though it’s a pretty long shot.
He’d need to take all the Greensboro precincts in the northwest quadrant of the city, capture the two Rockingham precincts that Berger lost in 2014 and tap into backlash against HB2 to topple a few of the close ones, most of which Berger lost by just a couple hundred votes. He’d need to ride Sen. Bernie Sanders’ coattails going into Election Day — assuming that Bernie is going to be on the ticket in November, which itself is looking doubtful — because Fink’s politics mesh well with the rabble-rouser from Brooklyn, and Sanders pulled more than 3,000 votes out of Rockingham in the 2016 primary, trailing Hillary Clinton by about a thousand.
Remember, too, that in 2008, Kay Hagan took Rockingham away from incumbent US Sen. Elizabeth Dole by about 100 votes.
It’s all very interesting. And I’m not saying that Fink will upset Berger on Election Day. But he just might.