Archive for February, 2018

AFTER 2018, A NEW LOOK

We already know there will be a new look to the 2019 session. There will be more women. Both Republican and Democratic recruiting leaders focused on lining up women candidates. Democrats need to pick up seven House seats to break the GOP “super majority” that can override Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes. Most observers think that will happen. The Senate Democrats would need to gain five seats and this is uncertain. It will all depend on money, the political climate in November and the marketing strategies of both parties. The changing trends in urban and rural demographics also could be a tipping point in 2018. But Democrats have not give up on rural North Carolina and Republicans have not conceded the rapidly-growing metro areas.

PEOPLE WE ARE FOLLOWING

Dan Barrett, an accountant in Davie County who was active in the Carolina Hosiery Association, won a Senate seat in a special election in August to replace Sen. Andrew Brock. He and Sen. Joyce Krawiec of Kernersville are two incumbents put in a new district.

The winner in the May primary will face a Democrat in November.

Former GOP Rep. Marilyn Avila of Wake County has filed to regain her seat in November. She started her career in the quality control laboratory at Hanes Hosiery and has championed the Manufacturing Solutions Center.

Sen. Jerry Tillman of Randolph County is one of the few incumbents who will return for the 2019-20 session without a battle. Tillman has championed the legislative agenda for the Manufacturing Solutions Center and the Textile Technology Center. Sen. Jeff Jackson in Mecklenburg County, a rising star in the Democratic caucus, also is home-free.

HISTORIC ELECTIONS AHEAD

The 2018 elections will include the most competitive races in recent memory—certainly in decades. From the mountains to the sea, most of the 170 seats for the House and Senate in the General Assembly will be contested.

Less than a half dozen Republican incumbents are home-free. The same is true for incumbent Democrats. Even the top leaders in the House and Senate will have opponents on the ballot in November. Other notables will have serious primary challenges in May. Taking a leaf from the Thom Tillis playbook in 2010 when he headed the GOP candidates recruiting efforts, Democrats worked to have candidates in all districts. They succeeded in 95 percent of the districts. Some longtime members who have never faced a challenge will be on the campaign trail in May and November. These include African American legislators who rarely have opponents and who will have primary battles.

TOP ISSUE FOR THE UPCOMING SESSION—PRE-SCHOOL EDUCATION

This week top business leaders, education board members, and some political activists gathered in Raleigh where the Emerging Issues Forum zeroed in on public education. Billionaire Jim Goodnight, CEO and founder of SAS Institute identified the vision for the assembly: lifting people out of poverty through education. Goodnight and others insisted that pre-kindergarten programs are a key to lifting up public education in the state, but public appropriations limit participation of only half the 70,000 pre-kindergarten age children who are living in poverty. N.C. Rep. Craig Horn of Union County, a retired business executive and House Appropriations Education chair, is a strong voice for increased funding for pre-school education. Horn has been meeting with education leaders across the state to gain input for the upcoming session in May.

The state spends $10 billion a year on public education which is almost half the $23 billion budget.

CONGRESSIONAL RACES

Since Massachusetts Governor Gerry implemented a congressional district in 1810 that looked like a salamander, “gerrymandering” has been used to describe the process of creating congressional districts for partisan advantage. North Carolina reportedly leads the nation in the process. Republicans represent 10 of the 13 N.C. Districts. In a year when Republican seats are vacated by retiring members, Democratic control of the U.S. House is regarded as a possibility. Serious Democratic candidates are expected in the N.C. Ninth and 13th Districts held by Republicans, one of which is facing a fierce primary fight. A switch of 21 seats in the U.S. House would give Democrats control. National attention will be focused on North Carolina in the election season, especially as the state is expected to gain another congressional district after the 2020 census.

HERE WE GO

The filing period for candidates in the 2018 elections starts Monday. A lot of names of veteran lawmakers will not be on the list when the period ends in three weeks. But a flood of new names will appear. Democrats are working to be sure there is a candidate for the N.C. House or Senate in districts where Gov. Roy Cooper got at least 44 percent of the vote in 2016. In a number of districts incumbent Republicans may face primary challenges from announced opponents. This could be the largest turnover the Legislature has experienced in decades.

Democrats would have to gain 16 seats in the House and 11 seats in the Senate to gain control. But the GOP super majority which can overide gubernatorial vetoes would be lost if Democrats gain about half that number. Loss of the super majority is just one chamber would give Governor Roy Cooper leverage to restore the balance the power between the legislative and executive branches of government. Observers predicted the GOP-controlled General Assembly to push hard for changes to the judicial branch, eliminating public elections of district judges.

With the popularity of President Trump in rural areas, a Democratic sweep seems unlikely. But the days of the Legislative control over the state’s agenda may be numbered.