Tag Archives: North Carolina

GOP Battle Brewing in
North Carolina Senate

Former Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) – on thin ice in Senate bid? / Photo by Hal Goodtree, Flickr

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 17, 2022 — The North Carolina Senate candidates have dealt with more uncertainty than any other set of statewide political contenders in this election cycle. Some of the questions have now been answered, but others remain.

Due to the continuing congressional and state legislative redistricting legal battles that have hampered the state for virtually the entire preceding decade, even the candidate filing date and the primary schedule itself were in doubt until the courts finally set a political calendar.

In order to be more relevant for the 2020 presidential election, the legislature moved the state’s traditional May primary to early March to better influence the presidential nomination selection. By not taking action to move the primary back to May, it appeared that voters would choose their ’22 nominees on March 8.

In December, the state Supreme Court, after an early flurry of lower court redistricting action, took it upon themselves to transfer the state primary to May 17. They merely suspended the Dec. 17 candidate filing deadline, but did not issue a new date. Earlier this week, as part of its ruling upholding the GOP legislature’s congressional and legislative maps, the special three-judge panel assigned to hear the redistricting challenges set the filing deadline for March 4.

With these basic questions now answered, the candidates finally have a clear electoral timeline in which to work. With the Democrats earlier coming together on a consensus candidate, fireworks are beginning on the Republican side. In mid-December, state Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte), thought to be a major US Senate contender, dropped his statewide bid. This makes former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley an overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination.

In the past few days, a pair of Tar Heel State Republican primary Senate polls were released almost simultaneously, with both finding former Gov. Pat McCrory holding an edge over US Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance). The ex-state chief executive’s advantage isn’t what one would expect for a well known party leader before his own partisan electorate, however. The McCrory campaign released their Strategic Partners Solutions survey (Jan. 5; 800 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters) that gives their man a 30-21-8 percent lead over Rep. Budd and former US Rep. Mark Walker.

The Civitas Institute’s latest Cygnal statewide poll (Jan. 7-9; 600 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters) also found McCrory holding an initial lead, but only through a 24-19 percent spread. Pushing for a decision from the 48 percent who said they were undecided and adding those preferences to the total actually finds Rep. Budd pulling into a small lead, 34-33 percent, when accounting for those who have “definitely” and “probably” made up their minds.

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North Carolina in Political Abeyance

(Please click on map for expanded view.)


By Jim Ellis

Dec. 14, 2021 — Last week proved to be a topsy-turvy week in North Carolina politics, and situations are being created that won’t likely be resolved for some time.

First, a three-judge panel suspended the state’s Dec. 17 candidate filing deadline to allow consideration time for the filed partisan gerrymandering lawsuits. A day later, the en banc 15-member State Appellate Court overturned the judicial panel’s ruling and reinstated the Dec. 17 filing deadline. Just hours later, the state Supreme Court overruled the full Appellate Court and not only reinstated the original ruling suspending the candidate filing deadline, but postponed the North Carolina primary more than two months, moving it from March 8 to May 17.

The final ruling affects all candidates at every level because the primary now returns to the traditional May slot that North Carolina typically holds. The respective Democratic and Republican Party leaders moved the primary in 2020 to better position the state for the presidential nomination process. In the 2021 legislative session, the General Assembly took no action to move the primary back to May.

The judicial rulings also affect the statewide US Senate race. For example, ex-Congressman Mark Walker (R) is a Senate candidate who did not seek re-election to the House in 2020 because the late-decade court-ordered redistricting ruling tore his previous 6th District into several parts making the region unattainable for any Republican.

Many people on the right, including former President Donald Trump, are reportedly urging Walker to leave the Senate race and run in the state’s open 7th Congressional District. The newly created CD-7 in the Greensboro area, which Walker largely represented, would certainly be winnable for him. In actuality, he would only have to win a Republican primary. If this map stands, the new 7th will be safe for the GOP in any general election.

Currently, the former congressman trails badly in early US Senate polling, but he is planning to stay in the Senate race until at least the end of the year, or when the congressional map status becomes clear.

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The Incumbent Pairings

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 30, 2021 — At this point in the national redistricting process, six sets of incumbents have been paired together, mostly in nomination battles, while an additional five incumbent combinations have been averted.

Over half the states have either completed the district re-drawing process or are well down the road to finishing. Illinois leads the nation with two sets of incumbent pairings, one set for each party. An additional four states have single pairings. A total of three Republican primary pairings are on the board, two feature Democratic incumbents, and one, in North Carolina, is a potential pairing with a member from each party.

Retirements have largely averted several more pairings. Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), Tom Reed (R-NY), Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), and Conor Lamb (D-PA) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), not seeking re-election have likely prevented obvious pairings in their states.

Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa), deciding to seek re-election in the new 1st Congressional District, has avoided a Republican primary pairing with her freshman GOP colleague, Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion/Cedar Rapids).

Below, we review the individual pairings.


GA-7:

• Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) vs. Rep. Lucy McBath (D)
Candidate Filing: March 11
Primary: May 24
Runoff: July 26

The surprise pairing of the early cycle occurs in the Atlanta suburbs. The Republican map drawers changed Rep. McBath’s 6th District back into a seat that favors the GOP, and instead of running an uphill campaign in a general election, McBath immediately announced that she would launch a primary challenge to freshman Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in a politically marginal district that was made safely Democratic.

This will be one of the more interesting pairings. Rep. Bourdeaux represents most of the new 7th’s constituency, but Rep. McBath will likely be viewed as the stronger Democratic base candidate. Bourdeaux starts with an early edge, and with each candidate already approaching $2 million in their respective campaign accounts, this primary campaign will be an old fashioned political shoot out. The winner earns a virtual free ride in the general election.


IL-6:

• Rep. Sean Casten (D) vs. Rep. Marie Newman (D)
Candidate Filing: March 14
Primary: June 28

The second Democratic pairing is the result of the party’s map drawers creating a second Chicago Hispanic district. This led to freshman Rep. Marie Newman standing without her own district. Instead of challenging Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago) in the original urban Hispanic seat, the district in which her La Grange residence was placed, she decided to instead oppose Rep. Sean Casten in the safely Democratic suburban 6th CD.

Though the seat carries Rep. Casten’s 6th, a bit more of the constituency belongs to Rep. Newman. The early resources favor Casten, as his $1 million in the bank is more than double Rep. Newman’s Sept. 30th filing deadline cash-on-hand total. This race will be one that turns sharply left, as both members identify with the party’s leftward faction. Rep. Casten is likely to attract more Chicago establishment support whereas Rep. Newman will get the bulk of leftward social issues coalition backing.

On paper, it appears that Rep. Casten would have at least a slight edge, but we can count on seeing a major campaign contest all the way to the June 28 primary.


IL-12:

• Rep. Mike Bost (R) vs. Rep. Mary Miller (R)
Candidate Filing: March 14
Primary: June 28

The second Land of Lincoln pairing features two Republican incumbents in the state’s southern sector. Typically, in a gerrymandered state the minority party inherits several very safe districts. Such is the case for the GOP in the new IL-12.

Most of Rep. Bost’s current 12th District constituency is in the new 12th, but the eastern part of a district that now encompasses all of the southern Illinois territory currently belongs to freshman Rep. Miller. The early financial edge also goes to Rep. Bost, but the two begin this race separated only by approximately $200,000.

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The “Fail Up” Senate Candidates

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 16, 2021 — There is an interesting phenomenon developing in the 2022 US Senate races, and that is the number of currently leading primary nomination candidates who have lost their last race. No less than five current US Senate contenders, all topping the latest polling, were defeated the last time they were on the ballot, some even in political campaigns for offices with less prominence.

In recent election years, we’ve seen a number of candidates lose a race and then attempt to “fail up” in the next campaign year. Most of the time, the same result occurs. The seemingly lone exception to the rule is Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff (D), who lost a special election for the US House in 2017 only to run for the Senate in 2020 and be elected.

Turning to 2022 and the unusually high number of such “fail up” candidates allows us to see if this pattern can reverse itself, or if the vast majority of these contenders will again find themselves on the short end of the vote totals when their election cycle ends either in the nomination contest or general election.

The 2022 “fail up” Senate candidates are Abby Finkenauer (D) in Iowa, Adam Laxalt (R) from Nevada, Pat McCrory (R) and Cheri Beasley (D) in North Carolina, and Pennsylvania’s Sean Parnell (R). Dr. Al Gross, who lost the 2020 Senate race in Alaska is a possibility to enter the 2022 race in the Last Frontier, but so far has not announced his candidacy.

Finkenauer, a Democrat, is a former state representative and congresswoman from Dubuque, Iowa. She was elected to the House in 2018, only to lose her seat after one term, 50-47 percent, to current US Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion/Cedar Rapids).

Finkenauer is leading in early polling for the Senate Democratic nomination as she and retired Navy admiral and defeated 2020 US Senate candidate Mike Franken battle to challenge venerable Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) who has won seven US Senate elections. Early polling finds Finkenauer trailing by close to 20 points.

Laxalt was elected Nevada’s attorney general in 2014, but with only 46 percent of the vote in a place where his party swept all of the statewide offices in that election year with his being the lowest victory percentage. Laxalt then entered the open 2018 governor’s race but lost to current incumbent Steve Sisolak (D), 49-45 percent. The latest polling (September) finds him trailing Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) by five points in a Mellman Group survey but holding a two-point lead in a study from WPA Intelligence.

North Carolina actually features candidates in both parties leading in nomination polling after losing their last race. McCrory is the former governor who lost his 2016 re-election campaign, even while Donald Trump and seven other Republicans were winning their statewide elections.

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North Carolina Map Passes

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 8, 2021 –The North Carolina legislature passed a congressional redistricting map late last week featuring a new seat that pushes the state to a 14-member delegation, but court challenges are again inevitable.

Under North Carolina law, the governor, in this case Democrat Roy Cooper, has no veto power over redistricting. Therefore, when the map cleared both legislative chambers, the plan became law.

The Tar Heel State legislature and the courts have battled over redistricting for most of the previous decade, with the judiciary changing the legislature’s maps no fewer than three times during that 10-year period.

The last court iteration, in which the Democratic controlled state Supreme Court added two Democratic seats at the GOP’s expense, created safe districts for their party in Raleigh and Greensboro. The effect transformed the delegation’s partisan division to eight Republicans and five Democrats.

Under the legislature’s new 2021 version, the members returned to the previous GOP model for the Greensboro area, while largely keeping the Democratic draw for central Raleigh. Though political data is not yet available for the 14 new districts, estimates suggest that the new plan will yield 10 Republican seats and four Democratic districts, at least for the 2022 election cycle.

With a March 8, 2022 primary and candidate filing opening in about a month on Dec. 6, it will be difficult to move quickly through the court process to stop the map before officially beginning the election cycle.

The new map displaces several members and is another example of the map drawers changing the district numbers, thus making it more difficult to make comparisons. The members most negatively affected are Reps. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro), Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk), and Richard Hudson (R-Concord).

The Manning district currently covers all of Guilford County, including the cities of Greensboro and High Point, and moves west into Forsyth County to annex the city of Winston-Salem. The court’s 2020 draw was split four ways, giving Rep. Manning the choice of approximately four immediate districts in which she could run, all of which are Republican. Therefore, it appears at first glance without the aid of political data that she would have to choose among four bad options in order to attempt to continue her congressional career.

Rep. Foxx, who currently represents a western North Carolina 5th District that stretches from Virginia to South Carolina would now see her new 11th CD begin in the western mountains and stretch easterly along the Virginia border and south into the city of Greensboro. This may be a relatively Republican district, but the addition of Democratic Greensboro clearly changes the district’s complexion and takes Foxx into a region that she has not represented over her nine terms in Congress.

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