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I’m going to start a “heated up” watch.

“Heated up” is the most overused lead in political news coverage. It’s a cliché reporters resort to all too often when candidates attack.

So I’m going to call out any uses of “heated up” I see in political coverage.

The latest sinner is an excellent reporter, Mark Johnson of the Charlotte Observer. He wrote this lead in Tuesday’s paper:

“The typically overshadowed race for lieutenant governor heated up Monday when two of the candidates for the Democratic nomination tussled over core issues for their party: abortion rights, death penalty reform, affirmative action and pollution control.”

How would you write it differently? Try this:

The old “wedge issues’ that Republicans once used against Democrats are back: abortion rights, death penalty reform and affirmative action. But this time a Democrat is using them against a Democrat in the typically overshadowed race for lieutenant governor.

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