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.
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.
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.
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.
Legislators Wednesday were poised to pass a bill approving some $1.5 billion in incentives to land an automobile manufacturing plant on a 1,800 acre site in Randolph County at the Guilford County line. But Tuesday night Toyota and Mazda announced the plant and 4,000 jobs will go to Huntsville, Alabama which offered less in incentives but which already has a supply chain for production of cars. The average salary of jobs will be $50,000, Toyota Mazda announced.
An executive with the site-selection team observed that Alabama now has 57,000 people employed in the automotive industries. “They did not want to be a pioneer in North Carolina,” he surmised.
The North Carolina effort was bipartisan with legislators and the office of Gov. Roy Cooper working hard to land the plant. The learning process will eventually lead to an automobile manufacturer on the site, the governor’s office insisted. Legislators reiterated support for manufacturing clusters in North Carolina.
The North Carolina General Assembly convened in Raleigh this week for a series of in-and-out sessions and committee meetings. Dominating the agenda is the realignment of 13 Congressional Districts, the redistricting of Judicial centers, and perhaps crafting an another amendment to the state constitution to make judges appointed and subject to approval of state lawmakers. As expected, vocal opposition has been part of the process.
Observers in Raleigh predict more quick sessions over the next few months before the normal short session of the Legislature begins in mid-May. Republicans dominate the Senate and House with veto-proof majorities. Recent polls indicate a possibility Democrats will gain enough seats in November to block veto overrides. The GOP will push major priorities into law before November, the reasoning goes.
Memorial services for Cecil Edward Gavin will be held Saturday, January 13, at 10:30 a.m. At First Presbyterian Church in Hickory. Mr. Gavin died January 2 in Frye Regional Center in Hickory. He was 79.
Gavin was well-known in the Southeast textiles industries. After graduating from Auburn University in his native Alabama, he started in the offices of Bibb Mills in Macon GA. He later was employed in internal auditing and purchasing at Burlington Industries in Greensboro. He was widely known as an acrylic yarn salesman for National Spinning Co. with customers throughout the Southeastern United States. He retired in 2003. He was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Jane Blanton Gavin, two sons, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Gavin was active in The Carolina Hosiery Association and The Hosiery Association. He and his wife were participants in Hickory Community organizations.
Technology. Manufacturing. Healthcare. But North Carolina also is employing thousands of people in food distribution and processing. Seventeen counties listed top employers in food and agriculture related businesses. In 19 counties the largest employer was a retailer or educational institution (college or community college).
The picture for North Carolina’s economy also shows how vulnerable some counties are in the drive to “reform” healthcare. In 40 percent of the state, healthcare is driving the economic engine. The accelerated drive for new technology is affecting the hosiery and textile companies. With the creation of a proposed Fabric Discovery Center in North Carolina and its mission to commercialize high-performing products, new technology and the people to use it will put new demands on companies and the Manufacturing Solutions Center and the Textile Technology Center.
Wake and Mecklenburg Counties are racing to the top. Mecklenburg with 1.055 million people is the largest, followed closely by Wake with 1.029 residents. But Wake’s rate of growth is the fastest. Some 67 people move into Wake every day…almost 30,000 new people every year. Raleigh, Charlotte and eight other cities in the top 10 have 2.39 million almost one-fifth of the total population. Per capita income in Wake and Mecklenburg is almost identical at $51,000. Warren County with a per capita income of $29,100 is the state’s poorest. Most others range from $30,000 to $45,000, with Buncombe, Catawba, Durham, Orange, Guilford, Forsyth and Gaston over $40, 000.
The dynamics of the shift has divided state legislators and not just along partisan lines. Residents of the poorer counties are paying a tax rate approaching $1.00 per assessed valuation and are still struggling with inadequate public schools and infrastructure. Businesses looking to move to North Carolina have employees who demand quality schools, more shopping opportunities, entertainment and a diverse culture. Senator Harry Brown, Senate majority leader and Appropriations Chair, has challenged counties in his district. He sees the schools in need of repair in high-taxed locations. He has floated the concept of sharing sales taxes, most collected in the metropolitan areas. As expected he has met resistance. Brown also frets that a huge percent of state incentive money has gone to Wake and Mecklenburg Counties where businesses prefer to locate.
A new report compiled by North Carolina magazine is a revealing report of a state that is moving down a new path in the 21st century. It is not news that North Carolina is changing dramatically. But how the hosiery and textiles industries fit into the future is something to ponder.
Trends that are changing the face of the state will pose serious challenges for legislators, policy administrators, educators, and—most important—families coping with a jobs market demanding new and challenging skills. Think technology.
Manufacturing is still near the top rung for the state’s economy. But in 41 of the state’s counties, healthcare operations are the top employer. This is the case for thriving counties like Durham with Duke Medical Center,and to small counties where the local hospital provides the most jobs. In three counties, the Walmart store is the largest employer. And so we have another view of the “two North Carolinas”–one experiencing a growth rate of 10 percent over the past six years and the other losing population.
In 26 North Carolina, a manufacturer is the top jobs creator. But out of the top 25 public companies based in North Carolina, only one textile-hosiery company was included. Hanesbrands.
However several textiles or hosiery companies were among the top employers in counties. Overall, our industries employ 31,200 persons. But with new technology, that number is shrinking.