After months of doorknocking, fundraising, TV ads, polling, and direct mail, the results for the 2022 midterm elections are in, and a new North Carolina congressional delegation will now head to Capitol Hill ahead of a new congressional session starting on January 3, 2023.
Republicans will keep both the state’s seats in the U.S. Senate, after U.S. Rep. Ted Budd won a decisive victory, at 51% to 47%, over Cheri Beasley. But they did not fare as well in the House, with Democrats winning both competitive districts and creating an even 7-7 balance in the House delegation.
Considering the advantage for Republicans in statewide races, the 7-7 House split was largely due to temporary court-imposed maps designed to create an even number of seats for each party. But now that the state Supreme Court is securely in Republican hands, the General Assembly will have an opportunity to draw new maps without interference from a Democrat-run court that many analysts believe veered into activism, creating novel constitutional interpretations favorable to Democrats.
The seat that Republicans had staked their hopes on was NC-13 in the southern Research Triangle. It was a suburban district that slightly favored Democrats. But Republicans believed that their candidate, political newcomer Bo Hines, had a real shot at winning over Democrat state Sen. Wiley Nickel.
In the end, Nickel was successful in convincing more voters that he was the right choice for the swing district, running as a moderate despite a fairly left-wing voting record. The final tally was 52% to 48%.
There were also less-competitive races that Republicans had hoped would be made competitive in a red-wave election. But a major wave didn’t develop, and the results in NC-1, NC-6, and NC-14 fell short.
The closest of the three was NC-1, in the northeast of the state, where Republican Sandy Smith trailed Democrat state Sen. Don Davis 52% to 48%, the same as the Hines-Nickel result. In the Triad area’s NC-6, Republican Christian Castelli fell to Democrat incumbent Rep. Kathy Manning 54% to 45%. And in NC-14, Republican Pat Harrigan lost to Democrat state Sen. Jeff Jackson 58% to 42%.
One interesting note from the House races was that all five of the new congressional members — Don Davis, D-NC1; Valerie Foushee, D-NC4; Chuck Edwards, R-NC11; Wiley Nickel, D-NC13; and Jeff Jackson, D-NC14 — came by way of the state Senate.
This has often been considered a traditional path to Congress, rising through the local ranks of city councils and county commissions, to a seat in the state House or state Senate, before seeking federal office or a high-profile statewide office like treasurer or even governor.
Current U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop, R-NC8, is a good example of someone following this traditional path to Washington. Bishop was on the Mecklenburg County Commission for four years before serving in the N.C. House, then in the N.C. Senate, then running for Congress.
During cycles with a lot of dissatisfaction with elected officials, though, voters often decide they prefer outside perspectives and will choose from non-politician candidates.
It’s not only the new members that served in Raleigh. All but two incumbent members of N.C.’s U.S. House delegation, as well as U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, came to their congressional seats after serving in the state General Assembly. U.S. Reps. Kathy Manning, D-NC6, and Richard Hudson, R-NC9, are the exceptions, never serving in state legislative office.
In the two most high-profile U.S. House races this election season, the Republican candidates were political newcomers. In NC-1, Sandy Smith ran against incumbent Rep. G.K. Butterfield in the previous cycle, but had never held office. And in NC-13, Republican Bo Hines was a 27-year-old law school student without much political or career experience prior to the campaign.
Smith and Hines lost to Davis and Nickel, both of whom had served in the state Senate. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-NC11, had never served in elected office before winning a congressional seat in 2020. Cawthorn was ousted in the 2022 primary by Republican Chuck Edwards, another state senator.
With Republicans taking a House majority with at least 221 seats, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana will likely become speaker and majority leader, respectively, and Minnesota’s Tom Emmer will be majority whip.
While none of those filling the top three positions will be from North Carolina, Rep. Patrick McHenry had been seen as an early contender. McHenry, who represents a district just west of Charlotte, had been chief deputy whip to Scalise from 2014 to 2019 and is seen as a rising star. His decision to remove himself from the whip race may have been a strategic move to maintain his good name and wait until there’s a better opportunity.
But McHenry is not being left out of leadership entirely. As ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, he will take on the chairmanship of the key committee.
“House Republicans will retake the majority this November, and the next Congress will be defined by divided government. As a result, I will best be able to serve our conference as the chairman of the Financial Services Committee,” McHenry told The Hill after removing his name from the whip race.
Rep. Richard Hudson, who represents the district surrounding Fort Bragg in eastern North Carolina, is another major player to watch, as he was selected as chair for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which works to elect more Republicans to the U.S. House.