Nov. 5, 2020
2020 Election Round-Up
North Carolina has been in the national spotlight since day one of this election cycle. As a must-win state in the race for the White House, NC has received more than its fair share of attention over the past 12 months. Without question, one of the most closely watched races in the nation is the U.S. Senate showdown between incumbent Senator Thom Tillis (R) and his opponent, former state senator, Cal Cunningham (D). As of Monday, this campaign was recorded as the most expensive for Senate in U.S. history. Why is this particular race so critical? Because the outcome may just determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate, where the GOP currently has a slim 4 seat majority. On a statewide and local level, many Council of State, Congressional, legislative, judicial and county government seats were up for election/re-election on Tuesday in NC. The outcomes of these races are of critical importance, as the Nelson Mullins Government Relations team works with elected officials from each of these governmental sectors with regards to various policy initiatives.
So, with the polls now closed, and most of the results tallied, what do we know?
No Blue Wave
As predicted by a handful, and believed strongly by quite a bit more, there was NOT a blue wave in North Carolina on Tuesday. Polls strongly suggested there would be, with surveys showing President Trump anywhere from 7-12% down. The same analysis had Tillis down 5% and the General Assembly with a 5-6% likelihood of one or both chambers flipping to a Democrat majority. While some races have not officially been called by the State Board of Elections, there are other outcomes in key contests the SBOE have declared. A brief summary is below:
NC – Presidential Race:
NC – U.S. Senate Race / (I) Thom Tillis vs. Cal Cunningham
NC – Governor / (I) Roy Cooper vs. Dan Forest
NC General Assembly
Senate: Democrats needed a net gain of +5 seats, OR a net gain of +4 seats AND a win in the Lt. Governor’s race, in order to achieve a majority in the NC Senate. They were NOT successful. The Dems weren’t able to flip any occupied GOP Senate seats from R to D. However, of the 9 open seats, they were able to gain 2 seats that were previously held by Republicans: District 18 (former Alexander seat/Wake Co) and District 39 (former Bishop seat/Meck Co). The Republicans were successful in flipping 1 Dem seat: District 9 (Harper Peterson/New Hanover Co. was defeated by Michael Lee). The GOP held all of the Republican open seats and they also held all of their competitive races up for re-election. In the end, the Democrats gained NO NEW SEATS, the GOP GAINED 1.
House: Democrats needed a net gain of +6 seats to regain majority in the NC House. They would also NOT be successful in this chamber. Dems were able to flip 2 GOP seats: District 9 (Perrin Jones/Pitt Co. was defeated by Brian Farkus) and District 63 (Stephen Ross/Alamance Co was defeated by Ricky Hurtado). However, they were not able to pick-up any of the 14 open seats. In contrast, the GOP flipped 5 Dem seats: District 37 (Sydney Batch/Wake Co was defeated by Erin Pare), District 66 (Scott Brewer/Montgomery Co was defeated by Ben Moss), District 93 (Ray Russell/Ashe Co was defeated by Ray Pickett), District 98 (Christie Clark/Meck Co was defeated by John Bradford) and District 119 (Joe Sam Queen/Haywood Co was defeated by Mike Clampitt). The Republicans were also successful in winning one of the open seats that was formerly held by a Dem: District 43 (Elmer Floyd seat/open/Cumberland Co – Diane Wheatley (R) won the seat over Kimberly Hardy (D)). The Republicans held most of their projected “vulnerable” seats, i.e. Rep. Ed Goodwin (Dist-1/NE cos), Rep. Chris Humphrey (Dist-12/Lenoir Co), Rep. John Szoka (Dist-45/Cumberland Co), Rep. Jon Hardister (Dist-59/Guilford Co) and Rep. Kristen Baker (Dist-82/Cabarrus Co). The GOP ended the night with a NET GAIN OF +4 SEATS IN THE HOUSE, with a couple races still being considered (too close to call).
Neither the House, nor the Senate, will have veto proof majorities, and they will be working with a Democrat Governor (Roy Cooper). This has been the political landscape for the past 4 years in Raleigh with a split-party government. The Long Session will convene on January 13, 2021.
NC Council of State
Of the 10 members on the North Carolina Council of State, there will be 6 Republicans and 4 Democrats if the current vote percentages hold. At least one of these contests, the race for Attorney General, has a less than 1% difference between candidates. It’s uncertain at this point whether or not a recount will be asked for by Republican Jim O’Neill. Council of State contest results are as follows:
NC Judicial Races
While there are still mail-in ballots to be counted, the volume of which is unknown, it does appear that the GOP is on the cusp of surprising everyone this election season by sweeping all 8 races for the NC Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. The State Board of Elections is being particularly careful in commenting about the contest for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The vote count between incumbent Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and her opponent, Associate Justice Paul Newby, is extremely close and it could be next week before this one is called according to SBOE officials. However, for now, all 8 judicial races on the ballot for Supreme Court and Court of Appeals are showing GOP victories.
Deeper Shade of Purple?
North Carolina has been considered a “purple” state by political analysts and pundits for a number of years now. With each election, we’re reviewed and researched and focused grouped by experts and insiders. No question, NC is not deep red or royal blue. At some point, we definitely moved to the middle of the political spectrum, to that more moderate place where a mixed ballot became more common than straight ticket. And, it showed in the outcome of our elections – a Democrat Governor, Republican Senators, GOP legislature, mixed Council of State, left-leaning judicial branch. Then, there’s the Presidency. North Carolina used to be a GOP go-to state. But, over the past 20 years that has changed, and this state is no longer a foregone conclusion to the Republican right. But, Tuesday has many of us thrown for a loop. The GOP did better in a year where they shouldn’t have here in NC. Yet, key races like that for Governor and President are still supporting the “purple state” label. Is North Carolina becoming a deeper shade of purple? Or, could we be moving slightly back in the red direction? It’ll be interesting to watch!
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