Fitzsimon File

Beyond the filing

Candidate filing closed at noon Wednesday, ending weeks of political gossip and speculation about who was running and who wasn’t.

If you had any doubts about the extent of the Republicans masterful job of gerrymandering legislative districts, the final slate of candidates ought to remove them.

There is no partisan competition in 19 of the 50 Senate districts, a higher number than in 2008 and 2010. Several have Republican or Democratic primaries, but in terms of which party will represent the district, the decision has already made. That is true in 51 of the House districts.

That means that more than 40 percent of the total seats in the House and Senate have already been won by one political party with Republicans enjoying a significant advantage before a single vote is cast. Earlier in the filing period, it looked like even more legislative races would not have a Democratic candidate, but a late flurry of filings narrowed the gap some with the Republicans.

Still these are maps drawn by a Republican majority to preserve a Republican majority. The courts are still considering their constitutionality but regardless of what the courts decide, the maps and the filings they inspired are compelling evidence for what we need an independent redistricting process.

That’s an idea that Republicans championed for years before they got the power to draw the maps to help themselves.

The only drama left in the governor’s race this week was the rumor that former Congressman Bobby Etheridge was having second thoughts about running. But Etheridge filed Wednesday morning, joining Lt Gov. Walter Dalton and Rep. Bill Faison as the major candidates who will battle for the Democratic nomination to face former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, who faces only token opposition in the Republican primary.

It also seems fitting that the filing period ended the day before a legislative committee will consider a proposal by Republicans to privatize the state’s preschool program and sharply reduce eligibility, denying tens of thousands of at-risk four-year olds any hope of gaining access to the nationally recognized program.

It is an issue that ought to make the choices for voters clear, at least in legislative races. Republicans slashed funding last summer for Smart Start and NC PreK , formerly known as More at Four, and they have refused proposals since from Gov. Bev Perdue to shift funds to restore some of the cuts and allow more children to enroll.

They have also ignored a judge’s ruling that access to pre-k programs for at risk kids is part of the sound, basic education they are guaranteed in the state constitution.

The Republicans response instead is to make preschool and early childhood services available to fewer children and to turn much of the program over to the for-profit sector with little accountability. Perdue and most of her fellow Democrats oppose both of those ideas.

It is a clear philosophical divide in the General Assembly.

Now we need to know where the candidates for governor stand on issues like access to NC PreK and slashing eligibility so families of four that earn $23,000 a year can longer benefit from the program.

The filing period is over. No need to guess anymore about who wants to be governor. It’s time to demand they tell us specifically what they will do if they are elected.