Republicans “won” the candidate filing race in both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly, with candidates in significantly more races than their Democrat counterparts for the 2022 elections.
Democrats’ lackluster candidate recruitment effort is a stunning development after Democratic-aligned groups successfully sued the legislature over redistricting maps. Republicans were forced to make significant changes to the legislative maps. In the end, the Democrat-controlled state Supreme Court certified the new legislative maps as “fair” on partisan and racial grounds.
On Dec. 20, 2019, the North Carolina Democratic Party sent out a press release announcing:
“At the close of filing, Democrats have candidates in 50 of 50 Senate districts and 119 of 120 House districts.”
While Democrats proudly announced candidates in 169 of 170 electoral contests for the 2020 election, this year’s press release was different. The March 4, 2022, NCDP release trumpeted filing “60 women and 75 candidates of color, and the most LGBTQ+ candidates in history.”
However, the NCDP release made no mention of their overall recruiting totals.
“This year Democrats across the state have stepped up to represent their neighbors in Raleigh. As a party we know our diversity is our strength, which is why I am thrilled candidates from so many different backgrounds have chosen to declare their candidacy,” said NCDP Chair Bobbie Richardson.
While Democrats announced candidates in 169 of 170 races for 2020, they only filed for 129 legislative seats this year. Democrats will contest 40 fewer races this year. Republicans filed a total of 160 candidates for 2022, up 1 from 2020.
In the N.C. House of Representatives, the NCGOP will present candidates in 111 of 120 races (92.5%), while Democrats are only contesting 92. (76.6 %)
Director of Republican House campaigns Stephen Wiley tweeted:
“Last cycle NC House Democrats filled 116 of 120 districts, while NC House Republicans got 110. Every Democrat voted this year against delaying the primary which would have given them more time to recruit. They ended with 92, we ended with 111. Oops.”
The result is at the close of filing, House Republicans have already won 28 seats. Democrats have won nine.
Gaston County Rep. Kelly Hastings is one of the Republicans who will be uncontested this fall.
“We work hard to be involved in the community, respond to our constituents, and have a conservative record with accomplishment,” Hastings told CJ on learning he would not have a major-party opponent.
Democrats failed to land a candidate to challenge House Majority Leader Rep. John Bell, R-Wayne, in a district that the John Locke Foundation rates as a toss-up.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the talented and diverse group of House Republican candidates,” said Bell. “We are well-positioned to have a great year. “
The GOP advantage in the N.C. Senate was even more dramatic. Republicans filed in 49 of 50 50 races (98%), whereas Democrats only filed in 37 of 50 (74%).
Republicans begin the campaign season having secured 13 Senate seats, while the Democrats secured just one.
In total Republicans filed in 160 (94%) of the 170 legislative contests, while Democrats filed in 129 (76%).
Gaston County Republican attorney Brad Overcash won the candidate filing lottery. A first-time legislative candidate running in an open Gaston County state Senate seat, Overcash expected tough races in the primary and the general election. His primary opponent had to drop out earlier this week, and then to his surprise Democrats failed to field a candidate against him. Reached via telephone moments after filing closed, Overcash was in disbelief over his turn of good luck.
“I am still a little shocked, real shocked,” said Overcash. “As a party I think the Democrats have gone so far left they just can’t recruit viable candidates in many areas of the state, including here in Gaston County.”
Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, was involved in one of the state’s closest and most expensive contests in 2020. When Carolina Journal informed her she would not have a general election opponent, she asked Carolina Journal if it could possibly be a mistake. “I can’t believe it, I just can’t believe it,” said Krawiec. “Maybe after they spent $5 million to beat me last time, they thought I needed a break. “
The Democrats’ massive drop in candidate recruitment is stunning and unexpected. Both parties have emphasized filing in as many races as possible over the decade, forcing candidates to earn victories even in races that heavily favor one party over the other.
With 41 fewer races contested by the Democrats, Republicans will conserve campaign funds and direct them to more difficult races in efforts to obtain veto-proof supermajorities in the Senate (30 of 50 seats) and the House (72 of 120).
Democrats already on their heels in a difficult election cycle now have tons more races to defend. Carolina Journal recently reported Democrat Wake County Sen. Sarah Crawford declined to run in her Democrat-leaning Senate seat, instead opting to run for the legislature’s lower chamber in a strongly Democratic district.
Defensive moves like Sen. Crawford’s and the lackluster recruiting effort shine more light on what Democrats are facing this year.
“I didn’t think we would close the day with this many uncontested races, but it’s understandable,” said Republican Director of N.C. Senate campaigns Dylan Watts. “Our Democratic colleagues see the same thing we do — the wave is coming. Buckle up.”