Red wave or not so much? A Review of the North Carolina Midterm Election – Constitutional and Administrative Law

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NC Republicans win key judicial races, earn a supermajority in the NC Senate, but ultimately fail a House supermajority

When North Carolinians awoke the morning after Election Day, Republicans had won significant victories in several legal races, while Democrats declared victory in a handful of key congressional contests.

Republicans celebrated a new supermajority in the state Senate, while all North Carolinians are likely to rejoice at the end of persistent political advertising on their televisions.

Before we dive into the details of results for North Carolina’s new fourteen congressional districts, we’ll look at the results of North Carolina’s judicial contests, North Carolina General Assembly races and coveted United States Senate seat up for grabs on Tuesday was.

Judicial races

Republicans saw arguably their greatest Election Day success in the judicial arena when Trey Allen, general counsel of the court’s administrative office, defeated incumbent Judge Sam J. “Jimmy” Ervin IV, and current Circuit Court of Appeals judge Richard Dietz defeated his peers at Court of Appeals defeated Lucy Inman in a race to replace retired Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson.

Further down the court vote, Republicans Julie Tate Flood, Donna Stroud, John Tyson and Michael Stading defeated all their opponents to win seats on the Circuit Court. Judge Stading’s victory may be the most surprising, as he ousted current Circuit Court Judge and former House Democratic Minority Leader Darren Jackson by over six percentage points.

North Carolina General Assembly

While many eyes were on the race for the US Senate in North Carolina and the newly drawn congressional districts, the power of Democratic Governor Roy Cooper also hung in the balance in Tuesday’s election. North Carolina Senate Republicans needed just 2 seats to capture a supermajority of 30 seats, while House Republicans needed 3 seats to win back the 72 members, a veto-proof majority they’ve had since Governor Cooper’s first two years in office no longer had.

Notable and close races in the Senate included Senator Bobby Hanig (R), running against North Carolina Department of Transportation board member Valerie Jordan (D) in a left-leaning Northeastern North Carolina district, and incumbent Senator Michael Lee (R). Wilmington facing challenger Marcia Morgan (D). Both Senator Lee and Senator Hanig secured re-election, but the Republican advantage did not last statewide.

Political newcomer Mary Wills Bode (D) won her Senate race against EC Sykes (R) in suburban Wake and Granville counties, while incumbent Senator Sydney Batch also won re-election in southern Wake counties. After balance sheets concluded late Tuesday night, Republicans had secured a supermajority in the North Carolina Senate for 2023, with the balance of power standing at 30 Republicans to 20 Democrats.

In the North Carolina House of Representatives, suburban incumbents such as Mecklenburg County Rep. John Bradford (R) and Wake County Rep. Erin Parè have faced strong challenges from their Democratic opponents. Republicans believed both seats were crucial on the way to a supermajority. Not only MPs Bradford and Parè won re-election, but also incumbent MPs Linda Cooper-Suggs (D), James Galliard (D), Terry Garrison (D), Brian Farkas (D), Ricky Hurtado (D) and Howard Hunter (D) lost all of their reelection bids to Republican challengers.

These races are all notable as they show the advantage Republican candidates held in the rural counties. The only outlier in this trend was incumbent Congressman Larry Yarborough (R), who lost his re-election to challenger Ray Jeffers (D) of Roxboro in a district that had undergone significant changes after the last round of redistricting.

House Democrats celebrated strong gains in the suburbs and urban areas, defeated challengers in Mecklenburg and Wake Counties, and won a new open seat in Cabarrus County near Concord, represented by Diamond Staton-Williams (D), who defeated Brian Echevarria (R).

By the time all districts reported their unofficial results, Democrats had secured 49 seats in the House of Representatives, while Republicans won a majority of 71 seats in the House, ultimately falling one seat short of a supermajority.

We expect that when the new Legislature sits in January next year, business will in many respects continue as usual under Republican control of the House and Senate. We expect leaders from the two chambers will continue to work together to pursue Republican priorities while exploring ways to find common ground with Gov. Cooper during his final term.

The Republican legislature and Cooper administration reached high-profile compromises on key energy legislation and state budgets for 2021 and 2022, and we expect the trio will continue to explore ways to work together for the good of the state. Without a Republican supermajority in his chamber, it remains to be seen whether House Speaker Tim Moore will be able to persuade one or more Democratic members of his chamber to override any governor’s vetoes that may arise.

United States Senate and Congressional races

As many polls had predicted in the campaign’s final weeks, Congressman Ted Budd (R) was winning his battle for the US Senate, where he faced off against former Chief Justice of the State Cheri Beasley (D). started. The total number of early votes heavily favored Beasley, as expected, but as the results of the same-day vote began to trickle in, it became clear that Congressman Budd would replace the retiring Richard Burr in the US Senate. The unofficial tally at the end of Election Day showed Budd receiving 50.71% of the vote, compared to Beasley’s 47.08%, with over 3.7 million North Carolina residents voting.

In congressional elections, voters saw many new candidates on their ballots from western North Carolina through the Raleigh suburbs and east to the I-95 corridor. In North Carolina’s House District 11, current Senator Chuck Edwards (R) defeated Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (D) in a seat previously held by Congresswoman Madison Cawthorn (R).

Moving further east and into North Carolina House District 14, current Senator Jeff Jackson (D) won a seat in West Charlotte and Gastonia over opponent Pat Harrigan (R). Senator Jackson previously faced Cheri Beasley in the Democratic US Senate primary, but dropped out to endorse Beasley before announcing his candidacy for the US House of Representatives.

In what may be the nation’s next ranking congressional district, North Carolina House District 13, State Senator Wiley Nickel (D) defeated political newcomer and former NC State football player Bo Hines (R). Many saw this race as one that might not be decided for weeks due to recounts and possible protests, but in the end Nickel would walk away with the contest and receive 51.32% of the vote to Hines’ 48.68%, a difference of corresponds to over 7,000 votes.

Finally, in North Carolina House District 1, a seat long held by resigning Congressman GK Butterfield (D), State Senator Don Davis (D) defeated Sandy Smith (R) in a race decided by a smaller margin than many had expected. Davis would end his election night with a 52.72% to 47.73% win over Smith.

Other incumbents throughout the state’s congressional delegation would drive to victory, such as Reps. Murphy (R), Manning (D), McHenry (R), Hudson (R), Foxx (R), Rouzer (R), Bishop (R) and Adams (D) all won re-election by at least eight percentage points. Also on the congressional delegation is former State Senator Valeria Foushee (D), who defeated Courtney Geels (R) in the contest to replace retiring Congressman David Price (D), who represented the district for over 30 years.

Heading into the 118th Congress, North Carolina will be represented by seven Democrats and seven Republicans in our delegation, exemplifying North Carolina’s status as a purple state.

Conclusion

Overall, Republicans fared better in North Carolina than nationally and enjoyed success in our state that was perhaps only overshadowed by their success in Florida. There were a handful of surprises as polling stations closed, with Wiley Nickel being declared the winner of his congressional campaign ahead of Wednesday morning and Republicans sweeping the list of statewide judicial races, but the ultimate political dynamic remains between the North Carolina General Assembly and the governor’s office remain largely unchanged.

Only time will tell how and where the new Republican supermajority in the North Carolina Senate decides to exercise its power, but without a safe override, General Assembly leaders will still have to balance Republican priorities against the threat of a Cooper veto

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