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Democratic litigator: After shift in Georgia, N.C. next to go blue

CJ photo by Don Carrington
CJ photo by Don Carrington

A Democratic litigator predicted North Carolina will be among a handful of states to turn blue in upcoming elections due to increasing turnout among minority and college-educated voters.

Election lawyer Marc Elias made the comments during a digital briefing Tuesday, Jan. 26, sponsored by Third Way, a progressive Washington, D.C.-based think tank. Elias, currently serving as chair of the Perkins Coie’s Political Law Group, is a longtime litigator who has worked for numerous Democratic campaigns, including the presidential bids of John Kerry in 2004, Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Kamala Harris in 2020. Elias has been part of several lawsuits in North Carolina, including an attempt to change state election laws.

“North Carolina has been on the razor’s edge of turning blue for some time now,” Elias said. “For many years, Virginia was, as well. Once it flipped, it flipped hard. I expect you’ll see something similar happen in North Carolina.”

Elias based his assessment off two predictions: Continued high turnout among African American voters and trends in college-educated white voters toward the Democratic Party.

He also added Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina to the list of states with the potential to shift from red to blue in upcoming elections.

In an interview with Carolina Journal, N.C. State University political science professor Andy Taylor said it makes sense to lump the Tar Heel State in with Georgia and Virginia in an electoral trends analysis — but only to a certain point. North Carolina is different from these two states in key ways, Taylor said.

“We don’t have the kind of mega urban area that Atlanta or northern Virginia are,” he said. “North Carolina has urban areas in Charlotte and the Triangle, obviously, but they don’t dominate the political scene in the same way. North Carolina also has a larger veteran population that tends to vote conservative.”

Looking ahead to the 2022 midterms, Elias predicted outcomes would entirely depend on two factors: President Biden’s popularity and redistricting.

“I think redistricting is going to be better for Democrats than in 2010, but it will still be the difference maker between a majority and not a majority,” he said. “If redistricting doesn’t go well, even a popular President Biden will be hard to overcome.”

Taylor noted that, historically, betting money should be on the Republicans to do well in the midterms as the party not in the White House. “The Republicans should feel pretty good about the situation given the midterm effects,” he said. “These effects should reach down to the General Assembly, as well, where turnout is pretty low but supporters of the out-party tend to be more motivated to go to the polls.”

Echoing calls from other progressives, Elias mentioned remaking the federal courts to better suit and support the Democrats’ agenda — beginning by expanding the number of judges in district courts but extending to the U.S. Supreme Court as well.

“We need to look seriously at the Supreme Court and ask whether or not it is structured by number and by composition in a way that makes sense today,” he said.

Also topping Elias’ wish list for Democrats was granting Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico statehood status.

David Bass is a freelance writer for Carolina Journal.