The road to winning 30 or more N.C. state Senate seats in the 50-seat chamber, a number that would allow for party-line overrides of Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes, just got easier for the Senate Republican caucus.
Democrat Sen. Sarah Crawford, who currently represents Franklin County and part of eastern Wake County, declined to seek re-election in the newly drawn Senate District 18, which will continue to have part of northern Wake County but exchanges Franklin County for Granville County.
Incumbent citizen legislators often decline to run for re-election, simply to go back to their private and business lives. This alone would not be news.
However, Crawford is doing something rarely seen in N.C. legislative politics. She is giving up a Democratic-leaning State Senate seat she currently occupies to run for a seat in the state House. With 120 seats, the House is considered the General Assembly’s lower chamber.
“After much thought and consideration, I have decided to run for the NC House of Representatives in the newly drawn District 66,” Crawford said.
“Since first being elected in 2020 I have been dedicated to the people of SD 18 in Eastern Wake and Franklin counties,” she added. “The new maps take most of that area out of the Senate District. Running for this House district will allow me to focus closer to home and continue doing work in my community.”
However, Crawford is being a little loose with the facts here — like real, real loose.
According to John Locke Foundation elections research fellow Jim Stirling, the precinct Crawford lives in is the one and only precinct that is in the new Wake County House 66 district she will be running in. There are 15 precincts that are in Crawford’s current Senate district that are also in the new Senate district.
Should Crawford win the N.C. House 66 race, she would represent only 9.96% of her current voters. However, the updated version of her Senate district is made up of 46.7% of her current voters.
The data shows she is not changing districts to go with most of her voters. She is changing districts to leave most of her voters in an effort to save her political career.
Stirling determined that the new Senate 18 is a D+2 district. That means that all things being equal, in an election similar to 2020, when Donald Trump won North Carolina by 1.4 percentage points, the Democrat in the district would be favored over the Republican by 3-4 points. Of course, a nonscandalized incumbent with a record of being on the ballot and of service to the district normally would fare even better.
Yet Crawford is cutting and running from what would be one of North Carolina’s closest and most expensive state Senate races in 2022 to move to a much bluer district. House District 66 favors a Democrat candidate by more than 20 points. Whoever wins the Democrat primary in House 66 almost certainly will be a member of the General Assembly. Republicans can’t win this seat, no matter how good 2022 is for them.
However, Crawford knows that winning a Democrat-leaning Senate district even with 2/3 of the voters coming from liberal Wake County is going to be very difficult in 2022. Republicans’ 2020 nominee for secretary of state, E.C. Sykes, is the favorite to win the Senate 18 GOP primary. Sykes is a successful businessman who is able and willing to fund an expensive race.
In learning of Crawford’s about-face, Sykes told Carolina Journal, “It seems unusual that incumbent Sen. Crawford has decided not to run in the redrawn district.”
“Goes to show you — competitive districts with competitive candidates in competitive years are not what they really want — even when maps are redrawn to include their incumbents.”
Nobody can really blame Crawford for exiting the Senate race. She wants to continue her service in the legislature. Running in heavily Democrat House 66 provides the best opportunity. However, Democrat incumbents fleeing Democrat-leaning seats tells you all you need to know about what they are facing this year.
Republicans don’t need Senate 18 to win a majority in the State Senate. However, they need it to win the coveted 30-seat supermajority to enact legislation irrespective of any opposition from Cooper.
Today that path got noticeably easier.