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The challenging GOP path to a supermajority
Republicans must flip back the suburbs, do well in small cities, and win in northeastern North Carolina to regain more power in the General Assembly.
The red wave appears to be re-materializing. After a summer with polls showing North Carolina Republicans and Democrats close to even, the GOP has recently extended their lead in the generic ballot and in the U.S. Senate race between Rep. Ted Budd and Cheri Beasley. Budd is up 6 points in the latest ECU poll, reaching the critical 50% mark. Republicans also regained the lead in the generic ballot average put together by FiveThirtyEight.
Then there’s this tweet that made the rounds:
Even with this momentum, the Republican path to a supermajority in the General Assembly is narrow and uncertain.
The GOP currently holds 28 seats in the N.C. Senate and 69 in the N.C. House. A veto-proof supermajority requires 30 seats and 72 seats, respectively.
New electoral districts resulting from the 2020 Census (and court battles, of course) shift more voting power to deep blue urban areas and the suburbs, which have trended more liberal in their voting patterns.
The Republican majority is safe. A supermajority is difficult.
The excellent analysis of the partisan leanings of North Carolina’s districts by the John Locke Foundation shows that Republicans will win a comfortable majority by holding onto seats that already are solidly or leaning red.
The supermajority is considerably more difficult. Republicans would not only need to sweep the few true toss-up districts, but also pick up a handful of districts that lean Democratic. In a true red wave year, this is doable but not a guarantee.
According to the John Locke Foundation analysis, Republicans would need to pick up 14 out of 19 toss-up or Democratic-leaning districts in the House to earn the supermajority. Republicans would also need to win six out of nine such districts in the Senate. Here’s the most likely way that could happen.
Republicans must flip back suburban seats, plus win micropolitan areas and some rural blue strongholds.
Getting to the magic number in the House will require the GOP to flip suburban districts that have voted significantly Democratic in recent cycles, perform well in smaller cities like Wilson and Rocky Mount, and win in some northeastern North Carolina districts with large African-American populations that have traditionally voted Democrat.
This will be made easier by a handful of former representatives taking advantage of a favorable environment to run for their old seats again. They will have a slight name identification advantage and community connections that will help them win.
Republican incumbents all hold on: Reps. Ted Davis (New Hanover, D+1); Diane Wheatley (Cumberland, toss-up); Jon Hardister (Guilford, D+2); John Faircloth (Guildford, D+1); Jeff Zenger (Forsyth, R+1); John Bradford (Mecklenburg, R+1).
Jarrod Lowery wins a true toss-up in an open seat in Robeson County. He replaces Democrat Charles Graham, who is likely to lose his U.S. House race against David Rouzer.
Former Representative Bill Brawley finally regains his eastern Mecklenburg County seat (D+2). This is an open seat created because of the Charlotte area’s growth.
Former Representative Stephen Ross regains his Alamance County seat (D+3) against freshman Rep. Ricky Hurtado.
Rising star Brian Echevarria wins in Cabarrus County (D+3).
Marine Corps veteran Ken Fontenot ousts Democratic incumbent freshman Rep. Linda Cooper-Suggs in Wilson (D+3).
Well-funded and well-organized Fred Von Canon rides a pro-police message to victory, defeating Rep. Terence Everitt in Wake County (D+3).
Bill Ward ousts incumbent Democratic Sen. Howard Hunter III in northeastern North Carolina (D+2).
Former Representative Marilyn Avila takes back her northern Wake County seat (D+5) against incumbent Rep. Joe John.
In this scenario, Reps. Brian Farkas (Pitt, D+3); and James Galliard (Nash, D+3) both hold on to their seats. These could also conceivably flip, but the Democrats have substantial cash advantages over their Republican opponents.
Democratic Reps. Brandon Lofton (Mecklenburg, D+4) and Garland Pierce (Hoke/Scotland, D+5) also keep their seats. These are a little more secure.
In the Senate, the path is significantly easier.
Republicans will still need to win urban battleground districts in Fayetteville and Wilmington, while doing well in suburban areas.
Republican incumbent Sens. Lisa Stone Barnes (D+2) and Danny Britt (D+1) win re-election in predominantly rural districts that lean slightly Democrat.
Republican incumbent Sens. Tom McInnis of Cumberland County and Michael Lee in New Hanover also win in true toss-up districts. The Lee race has been particularly contentious.
Former Senator Buck Newton ousts Democratic incumbent Sen. Toby Fitch in the Greene/Wayne/Wilson district (R+1).
Republican E.C. Sykes, formerly a Republican nominee for Secretary of State, beats Mary Willis Bode in the 18th District (D+2), which includes northern Wake County as well as Granville County.
The GOP can take the supermajority even with Democratic Sens. Rachel Hunt (D+5) and Sydney Batch (D+2) both holding on to their seats in Mecklenburg and Wake counties, respectively. In this scenario, Republican Bobby Hanig also narrowly loses to Democratic Valerie Jordan in the northeastern North Carolina district (D+5).
So will it happen?
While the John Locke Foundation’s partisan ratings are overwhelmingly accurate, they’re not perfect. There will undoubtedly be some surprises on election night.
My prediction: Republicans will gain a supermajority in the Senate. They will come up a few seats short in the House.
A lot needs to break right to win the lower chamber — but it is doable if candidates can get out the vote over the next few weeks.
3 things of note
Greensboro admits to violating pro-life protestors' rights. The city of Greensboro admits in a legal settlement to unfairly violating the rights of pro-life protestors during the COVID-19 pandemic, Carolina Journal reports. They cited the pro-life activists under the city's emergency orders for walking outside an abortion clinic, despite these groups following all of the city's nonsensical rules to the letter. Kudos to the Alliance Defending Freedom for holding the city accountable.
Moms for Liberty pitch book rating system in Mecklenburg County Schools. The Charlotte chapter of the conservative Moms for Liberty group is pitching a 1-5 rating system for books available to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students, the Charlotte Observer reports. It’s an interesting idea, but likely unworkable. It also potentially puts literature that’s worthwhile on the chopping block. A better idea would be to allow parents access to records of what’s being checked out, and full visibility into assigned readings.
Gov. McCrory returning to the radio. He'll have a weekly one-hour appearance on WBT, according to the Charlotte Observer. I’ve always thought McCrory is excellent as a radio commentator, even if it is slightly unusual as a post-gubernatorial gig.
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