RALEIGH – There can be no doubt about the significance of Friday’s decision by Johnston Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins to order major changes in the redistricting maps for North Carolina House and Senate. With a stroke, the judge ensured truly competitive legislative elections and, in the case of the State Senate, ended decades of partisan gerrymandering that had propped up an artificial supermajority for North Carolina Democrats.
My own preliminary analysis of the results helps to illustrate the potential for GOP gains in November. Based on a variety of factors, including party registration and results in recent statewide elections, I would suggest the following breakdown for the new districts:
North Carolina Senate (26 Needed for Control)
Strong Republican Seats: 14
Republican-Leaning Seats: 10
Swing Seats: 7
Democratic-Leaning Seats: 7
Strong Democratic Seats: 12
North Carolina House (61 Needed for Control)
Strong Republican Seats: 28
Republican-Leaning Seats: 27
Swing Seats: 22
Democratic-Leaning Seats: 10
Strong Democratic Seats: 33
Still, I’d recommend that some of the more exuberant Republicans, including those just returning from the party’s state convention in New Bern who reportedly were buzzing about a possible “landslide,” not take their victory lap prematurely. Redistricting is not destiny. Republicans took control of the North Carolina House in 1994 and held it for two terms running in districts crafted by Democrats in 1991 in an attempt to maintain control.
Candidates matter. So do ideas, fundraising prowess, and luck.
Republicans may have trouble exploiting this new gap in the Democratic line due to candidate recruitment problems. National or international events may also reshape the political landscape. To assume anything electoral necessarily follows from the Democrats’ embarrassing defeat in court (more on that tomorrow) is itself to risk failure.