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WILL NORTH CAROLINA MAKE ELECTION HISTORY?

Cash Michaels | 4/12/2011, 4:34 p.m.

[RALEIGH, NC] With less than five days before the historic Nov. 4 presidential election, what role will North Carolina indeed play in helping to elect the first African-American Commander-in-Chief ever?

And can the black vote in this state really make the difference?

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee [D-Texas] says North Carolina and the black vote here are key to any national victory that Sen. Barack Obama has next week.

And if indeed the first-term Illinois senator wins the election with North Carolina, she adds, the significance will be undeniable.

"The excitement of North Carolina being a pivotal player in the 2008 election with great opportunities for a new president of the United States, Barack Obama, the energy of the NC Democratic Party; a very, very active Democratic ticket with a US Senate race in play; the governor's race being in play...frankly I believe that North Carolina is a state to watch," Rep. Jackson Lee, a New York City native, told The Amsterdam News in an exclusive interview during her visit to Raleigh last Sunday.

On Wednesday, Obama held a massive Early Voting rally on the Halifax Mall Government Complex in downtown Raleigh, where he urged thousands of enthusiastic supporters not to wait, but march to the polls now before Election Day for the change they want.

The candidate's wife, Michelle Obama, was also in the state Wednesday, holding an Early Vote for Change rally in Rocky Mount.

Sen. John McCain, Sen. Obama's Republican rival, urged voters in Fayetteville Tuesday not to believe the polls that have Obama ahead, but vote him and running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who campaigned in Asheville on Sunday.

Rep. Jackson Lee said all eyes are definitely on North Carolina.

"What state has every single major office on the ballot? It really will be the test whether a state like North Carolina will turn blue, blue, blue," the seven-term congresswoman continued. "This is a great opportunity, and a great deal of excitement for the people of North Carolina."

Indeed, beyond the race for the White House between Obama and Sen. McCain, North Carolina voters have a ballot brimming with hot races.

While Obama currently leads the Arizona Republican by an average of 2 points in the Tar Heel state, compared to at least six in most national polling, voters here must also decide who will be the next governor, and the next US senator between Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole and Democrat challenger State Sen. Kay Hagan, among others.

All of the Democrats in the North Carolina statewide races are doing well, especially with 58 percent of the early voting turnout thus far being Democratic.

At presstime Wednesday morning, early voting figures from the NC Board of Elections (NCBOE) continue to defy past elections.

Of North Carolina's 6,220,485 registered voters, 1,623,107 total absentee ballots, or 26 percent, were cast as of 9 p.m. Tuesday evening.

Of that number, 1,479,270 were One Stop Early Votes, NCBOE records show. And, as The Carolinian first and exclusively reported last week, African-American female Democrats continue to set the pace beyond all other groups in early voting.