What’s Happening in North Carolina?

by Barbara Head, Feb. 28, 2022. North Carolina is not only a swing state, it is a battleground in itself! The 2020 presidential election was close, with Biden losing by only 1.4%, and politics have grown even more fractious since then. There are three major stories in North Carolina:

  • U.S. Senate race – The drama begins with Republican Senator Richard Burr’s retirement in 2022, opening up this seat. Burr was censured by the North Carolina Republican Party for voting to convict Trump following the Jan 6 insurrection, and Trump is now angling to choose Burr’s successor. The Democrats have an outstanding candidate in Cheri Beasley, the Black North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice who lost her re-election bid in 2020 by only 401 votes out of 5.4M cast across the state (0.007%). Burr’s seat is predicted to be right-leaning but flippable, and Beasley could be the one to flip it. 
  • Battles for state control  — Democratic governor Roy Cooper, who is up for re-election in 2024, has been clashing with the Republican-controlled General Assembly (Senate and House) of North Carolina since 2016. Cooper has enjoyed tremendous popularity in this state, having been re-elected twice as governor and before that,  four times as Attorney General. The General Assembly has fought him ferociously on issues such as governor’s powers and election policies, with many governor’s vetoes and legislative veto overrides. Cooper cannot veto redistricting, so that conflict has been playing out in the North Carolina courts.
  • Redistricting – Democrats just won a huge victory for fair maps in North Carolina! The state Supreme Court ruled that a heavily gerrymandered Congressional map drawn by the General Assembly was unconstitutional. The court then appointed a bipartisan panel of redistricting specialists (“special masters”), whose revised Congressional map was adopted. This new map is not gerrymandered and by various criteria, including protection of Black voters’ rights, is much improved over the previous map. The state legislature maps received mixed reviews (House generally positive, Senate less so) but both were adopted. The bottom line is –  all three maps are better than their predecessors and are final for the 2022 election. 

So redistricting in North Carolina has served Democrats well in 2022. The new Congressional map will be split evenly between likely Democratic and likely Republican districts, with two competitive districts. The North Carolina state legislature will likely retain its Republican majority (sigh) but maybe now there will be more competition from Democrats. 

A  lot is happening in North Carolina – stay tuned for our latest recommended actions to help push this purple battleground state into blue territory!