The Implications Of More Divided Government In North Carolina

The Implications Of More Divided Government In North Carolina

5:04pm Nov 04, 2020
State Sen. Phil Berger speaks on the senate floor during a special session of the North Carolina General Assembly. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

Republican candidates Senator Thom Tillis and President Donald Trump were rewarded by a majority of voters on Tuesday. That dominance extended down-ballot as well, ensuring that North Carolina will remain closely divided with the state legislature firmly controlled by Republicans, led by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.

Wake Forest University Politics Professor John Dinan Spoke with WFDD’s David Ford about what it all means moving forward. 

Interview Highlights

On Election Day surprises for North Carolina house and senate races:

For the Senate seats, the Krawiec race, the Galey race, these are races they call the million-dollar races. And these were Republican leaning districts — even with the redistricting — and yet Democrats said if things are sufficiently good for us, we can perhaps pull these over to our side. It just didn't happen.

It was kind of an ordinary election for North Carolina. These districts that seemed reachable in good times for Democrats turned out not to be reachable. Republicans in the Senate only lost one seat, and Republicans in the House actually picked up seats. I didn't see too many analysts saying that Republicans had a chance of widening their majority in either House. That's the surprise. 

On the prospects for getting things done in Raleigh for North Carolinians:

Things were very challenging in terms of negotiation between the governor and Republican legislative leaders in the last two years. We're not looking to see any easing of that challenging situation. That is, the governor can say, ‘I have a mandate to continue pushing my policies,’ and yet legislative leaders in the state House and Senate can say with reason, ‘We have a mandate as well to continue pushing our policies.’ We didn't get a budget signed in the last two years. And it's very possible that we go another two years, actually, without getting a budget.

On the repercussions of Census 2020: 

One of the reasons why state legislative races in the state House and Senate in North Carolina attracted such money and attention was because everybody knew that the legislature that was elected this year would draw the voting maps as a result of the 2020 census. That will be on the agenda next year: draw the maps for congress, draw the maps for state legislature. 

That being said, the Supreme Court will, regardless of some close races, remain in Democratic hands. Democrats will have at least a 4-3 advantage on the state Supreme Court. And that is a check on the district lines that will be drawn up by the Republican dominated legislature, and the courts in North Carolina have already exercised that check just in 2019 to order redrawn maps. 

On Democratic Governor Roy Cooper's ability to govern:

If we look at some of the issues that have been contested heavily between the governor and legislative leaders, Medicaid expansion clearly leads the list. And that dominated the airwaves in terms of the recent campaigns. The governor wants to expand Medicaid, state senators have been opposed to it, and the House has only been lukewarm towards it. It's going to be very difficult for the governor to get his priorities. At the same time, though, it's going to be very difficult for legislative leaders to get any of their real priorities through. The governor has the veto. He can block them.  

EDITOR'S NOTE: This transcript was lightly edited for clarity.

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