Marshall is a great candidate who has already won 4 statewide elections. The Sec of State position is not the most high profile job, but Marshall has used it to fight for clean elections and to shed light on lobbyists' activities and financial industry scams.
In comparison, Cunningham is unknown to most of the state. Cunningham initially said no to running, only to change his mind a few weeks later.
Female candidates are on a roll in NC recently, from Kay Hagan and Bev Perdue to winning a majority of the Council of State (Sec of State, Treasurer, Auditor, Sec of Labor, Supt of Schools) positions for the first time ever in 2008.
With Ken Lewis' endorsement, I expect Marshall to win the primary easily and to beat Burr in a close battle in November.
Democrats control both houses of the legislature and the Governor's mansion in NC. The entire legislature will be up for re-election in 2010, but barring a GOP wave, Dems should retain control of redistricting.
Dems now hold a 8-5 advantage in the Congressional delegation. The only statewide race in 2010 is for Richard Burr's senate seat, so the incumbent House members will likely remain in place (unless Brad Miller (NC-13) opts to run for the Senate). There is a possibility that NC could gain another seat after the census. Population growth has been concentrated in the Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham metro areas, so those districts will need to lose population to surrounding ones.
The GOP strategy for impacting redistricting has been to judge-shop for a GOP-friendly judge and file a lawsuit after redistricting is completed. This resulted in 3 rounds of redistricting in the 1990s and 2 in the 2000s.
Their basis for the lawsuits has been either that not enough minority districts were created, or too many counties were split.
They have mananged to use friendly judges and the US Justice Dept to overturn Democratic plans and pack more minorities into districts. Since those minorities also tend to vote for Democrats, this makes the surrounding districts whiter and more GOP-friendly.
The result is shown vividly by the map of NC-12, a narrow district that follows I-85 from Charlotte to Greensboro, picking up minority precincts all over and making NC-5 safer for Virginia Foxx and NC-10 for Patrick McHenry. NC-12 once stretched from Charlotte to Durham in the 1990s - Mel Watt was one of 3 Congressmen (3 districts) I had in the 1990s even though I never moved.
Hopefully, the Obama Justice Department will not assist them in packing Democratic voters into a few highly concentated districts. Obama has personally proven that a minority candidate can win areas where the majority of voters are white - even in the South.
NC has competitive races for US Senate (potential takeover), Governor (potential loss), and US House (NC-8). Obama's efforts will have a tremendous effect down the ballot. Credit the groundwork Obama has done in NC on voter registration for making it as close as it is.