Democracy 101: Surveying The Landscape After Election Day

Democracy 101: Surveying The Landscape After Election Day

5:28pm Nov 07, 2018
Republican Mark Harris speaks to the media during a news conference in Matthews, N.C. Harris ran against Democrat Dan McCready in a tightly-contested race. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

This is part of our election-year civics series, Democracy 101Click here to find more of our stories about important issues in North Carolina politics.

The 2018 election brought plenty of good news for Democrats around the country and right here in North Carolina.

State Democrats were particularly thrilled about breaking the Republican supermajority in the statehouse.

But the GOP fought back challengers in key congressional races around the state, as well.

As part of our election-year series, “Democracy 101,” WFDD’s Sean Bueter spoke to Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer about what happened this week in North Carolina politics.

Interview Highlights

On the shifts in the North Carolina General Assembly:

Before Election Day, Democrats were hoping to, at least, break one chamber. They weren't counting on both chambers, and certainly were not counting on the idea of flipping a chamber. But they got their wish and more. In the state House, the number of Republicans dropped from 75 down to 66. In the state Senate, it went from 35 to 29.

So the supermajorities are gone in both of the chambers. And that really increases not just the power of legislative Democrats, but also the power of Governor Cooper who could issue a veto and likely have that veto stand as opposed to being overridden by the legislative Republicans.

On Republicans winning all three contested congressional races:

I would say that the performance of Democrats – somebody like Dan McCready, somebody like Linda Coleman, and particularly somebody like Kathy Manning – was exceptional, in terms of what they were facing. These districts were so heavily drawn for the Republicans that Democrats almost needed a tide, and then a tidal wave, and then maybe a little more of a tsunami to overcome some of these walls that the Republicans have built around the districts.

Dan McCready gave it his best shot, was the good kind of candidate in the 9th, just was barely unable to get there. Kathy Manning had a little bit less of a performance, but still, within these districts, if you're talking about 56 to 58 percent normally, that this district would vote Republican, and to have it as competitive as what we saw, then this is a pretty good showing. But again, the status quo holds at the congressional level at least.

Two surprises or takeaways from this year's North Carolina midterms:

One is voter turnout. We hit 52 percent: half of the state's 7 million registered voters showed up in a midterm. Typically that is very unheard of.

The second thing is the change in suburbs, particularly in Mecklenburg, in Guilford, and in Wake County. I think those are the new dynamics. And something is happening within those areas inside the urban county but outside the central city. So, outside of Greensboro, outside of Charlotte, outside of Raleigh, those are going to be areas to continue to watch and see if they are transitioning from, perhaps, Republican, to "toss up," maybe towards Democratic.

(Ed.: This transcription has been lightly edited for clarity.)

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