Early voting opens Thursday, April 19 for the May 8 primary.

So far most of the races have been pretty quiet. There are no statewide races on the primary ballot. On the Republican ballot, the only countywide race is for sheriff, where Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes is being challenged by Steve Parr.

The Democrats have been fired up since their big losses in 2016, and it is reflected in the primary where there are a total of three countywide races and primaries in both the 6th and 13th congressional districts.

One race where the candidates are making some noise is in the Republican District 59 state House primary.

Republican state House District 59 candidate Mark McDaniel surprised a lot of local political pundits by filing to run against Republican state House District 59 Rep. Jon Hardister, who is running for a fourth term and is the majority whip.

The majority whip is the number three leadership position in the House, and it means Hardister works closely with Speaker Tim Moore and Majority Leader Rep. John Bell.

McDaniel served in the state Senate from 1995 to 1999 and was the business manager of Southeastern Eye Center, which financially collapsed in 2012 and is still involved in multiple legal disputes despite the fact that the eye center itself was sold.

What is even more surprising is that McDaniel is a one issue candidate running against the expanded sales tax to services implemented by the Republicans as a part of the overall tax reform plan that the Republicans credit with North Carolina’s current economic success. Republicans across the state are running on the success of their tax reform plan, which lowered personal and corporate income tax, raised the standard deduction and eliminated the death tax.

McDaniel said, “I was utterly astounded that the Republicans passed a sales tax on services.” He said, “The service sales tax is an emergency tax.”

McDaniel said that when you need emergency car repairs, or your pipes burst and you have to call a plumber, now you have to pay sales tax on their bill. To be fair, you also have to pay sales tax on the service when you have your oil changed or any other car or plumbing repair. It’s not a tax only for emergency repairs.

McDaniel said he was planning on running in two years after the legal issues involving Southeastern Eye Center were cleared up, but the sales tax on services pushed him to run this year. He said that he couldn’t find a Republican who voted against the service sales tax and he doesn’t think Republicans ought to be raising taxes.

As Hardister is quick to note, before the Republican tax reform North Carolina ranked 44th in the country in overall business climate and after the tax reform the state ranks 11th and was ranked by Forbes magazine as the best state in the country to do business.

Hardister said that the overall tax burden on North Carolinians is lower. He said personal income tax was lowered from 7.75 percent to 5.5 percent, and next year it will go down to 5.25, and standard deductions have been tripled to $10,000 for an individual. He said the goal was, over time, to eliminate state personal income tax. Corporate income tax was lowered from 6.9 percent to 3 percent and will soon go to 2.5 percent.

Hardister said that the sales tax was expanded to services because North Carolina is becoming more of a service-based economy and the Republicans in the legislature “would rather derive money from transactions rather than withholding money from people’s paychecks.”

Hardister said that when 6th District Congressman Mark Walker and 13th District Congressman Ted Budd held a press conference to talk about the Republican national tax reform plan, they talked about the economic growth that the North Carolina tax reform plan had brought about.

Hardister said, “They talked about the success of tax reform in North Carolina and how the federal government needed to do the same thing.”

Hardister said the facts are on his side. He said, “Since 2013, over 463,000 net new jobs have been created in the state.”

Hardister noted that since the Republicans took over the legislature, the state has paid back $2.5 billion it owed the federal government and has been able to build up the rainy day fund to $2 billion. He said he is comfortable running on the success of the Republican tax reform.

McDaniel doesn’t like sales tax being expanded to services and says that there was no need because the state could pay all of its bills without the additional sales tax revenue. McDaniel said that the $300 million raised by expanding sales tax to services is a “rounding error” and the state government could easily do without those additional funds.

McDaniel is running ads that say Hardister, because he supported the sales tax expansion, is not a real Republican.   But when asked, McDaniel said, “I can’t find a Republican in the House anywhere who didn’t vote for it.”

He said that there needed to be someone in the Republican Caucus to stand up and say no. He said, “I was in the legislative process. If anybody thinks all those budgets are slim and trim, they’re not.”

But McDaniel is not all about cutting spending. He has a plan to give every taxpayer in the state a Christmas dividend. He said for every $1 billion the state collected in income tax, the taxpayers should get $166 back as a Christmas bonus. McDaniel said everyone, regardless of how much they paid in taxes, would get the same bonus at the end of the year. He said it would cost the state $2 billion or $3 billion a year, which the state could afford.

McDaniel has also said that the legislature has a plan to expand the sales tax to cover health care.

About that Hardister said, “It’s not going to happen.”

It appears that Hardister is right because other state legislators say there is no discussion in Raleigh about taxing health care.

It’s an interesting race. Hardister is running on the increased economic vitality that the Republican tax reform plan has brought to the state and McDaniel is running against one part of that overall tax reform plan.

Karen Albright has also filed to run in the District 59 state House Republican primary but has effectively dropped out of the race.