News: CJ Exclusives

GOP Election Gains Could Have Far-Reaching Consequences

General Assembly will be dominated by relative newcomers

A postelection briefing by the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation spelled out the magnitude of the dramatic gains made by Republicans in the Nov. 6 election. Bucking the national trend, the GOP picked up congressional and legislative seats, as well as the Executive Mansion. In January, Republicans will take charge of the executive and legislative branches of state government for the first time since the 19th century.

The GOP can credit much of its success to redrawn congressional and legislative districts that made a number of districts more friendly demographically. They also enjoyed a campaign finance advantage, a plus that they are not used to having.

Republicans picked up three congressional seats in the state, with one seat (the 7th District) still in doubt. In that district, incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre holding a razor-thin 411-vote lead over GOP state Sen. David Rouzer. Pending the tally of absentee and provisional ballots, that race now qualifies for an automatic recount.

The GOP also picked up seats in the 8th, 11th, and 13th Districts, with Republicans Richard Hudson, Mark Meadows, and George Holding winning those seats, respectively.

The gains for the Republicans mean that they will enjoy a nine-to-four advantage in the states congressional delegate. Currently, Democrats hold a seven-to six advantage.

Republicans also padded their majorities in the General Assembly. When lawmakers convene in Raleigh in January, Republicans will have a 32-18 advantage in the Senate (currently it’s 31-19) and a 77-43 majority in the House (currently it’s 68-52).

The Executive Mansion will be inhabited by a Republican for the first time in 20 years as former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory handily defeated Democratic Lt.Gov. Walter Dalton.

Dalton started the race from behind after current Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue announced that she would not seek re-election last winter. McCrory also had a whopping money advantage, spending $7.7 million on the race compared to $1.9 million, according to third-quarter spending reports.

“Pat McCrory got more votes than Mitt Romney,” the GOP candidate for president, said Jonathan Kappler, research director for the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation.

However, McCrory didn’t produce a coattail effect for other statewide races, except possible the lieutenant governor’s race, Kappler said.

In that race, political newcomer Dan Forest, a Republican, sits on an 11,052 lead over Democrat Linda Coleman, a former state representative and state personnel director.

Coleman has yet to concede that race. North Carolina law allows a statewide candidate to call for a mandatory recount if the difference between the votes for that candidate and the prevailing candidate is less than one-half of 1 percent, or 10,000 votes, whichever is less.

If the final official tally doesn’t show the race tightening, Coleman would not be eligible for a mandatory recount.

In legislative races, Republicans found themselves in unfamiliar territory when it comes to campaign financing. According to an N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation analysis, Republicans outspent Democrats 3.5-to-1 in the Senate and about 2-to-1 in the House.

The foundation also found a few other nuggets during its post-election briefing:

• The new Senate will have 13 freshman members, five Democrats and eight Republicans.

• Thirty of the 50 senators next year will be serving in either their first or second term.

• Half of the members of the Democratic Senate caucus — nine of 18 —will be African-American.

• There will be 43 freshman members of the House next year – 12 Democrats and 31 Republicans.

• Sixty-nine of the 120 representatives will be serving in either their first or second terms.

• Twenty-two of the 43 House Democratic caucus members will be African-American.

Barry Smith is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.