At noon on Feb. 28, 2018, the deadline for both N.C. Senate and N.C. House of Representatives candidate registration ended after an extremely successful push from both parties to register candidates in every district. The results leave all NC districts but one with a contested election. While this may not seem particularly out of character, for North Carolina’s elections, it is quite a historic moment. This election is the first time since 1925 that all seats have been contested. It also comes at a time that could not be better for Democratic candidates in the United States.
Earlier this month, Conor Lamb, a Democratic candidate of the 18th district of Pennsylvania, won in a heavily contested special election over Rick Saccone, a longtime Republican. The significance of this win, narrow as it was, is that Donald Trump won in that district by 20 percentage points in 2016. Even if the midterm elections in North Carolina do not follow this trend to the same extent, it still marks a shift in politics in the United States and has certainly shaken North Carolina Republicans as historically red districts can no longer be fully relied on for an easy win.
This potential increase in Democrats in Raleigh could harken an end to the current Republican supermajority that effectually makes Democratic Governor Roy Cooper unproductive as they can vote to surpass any gubernatorial veto. The Republicans in North Carolina are fully aware of this; in a leaked email from the Republican House Caucus Political Director Matt Bales, he expressed the severity of the situation as there are 23 districts that fit the similar demographic of Pennsylvania’s 18th district with Donald Trump winning by 20 percentage points.
Should those 23 districts follow suit, the supermajority would not only be broken but the House majority would swing to the Democrats heavily. Guilford County has six seats in the NC House of Representatives and three in the NC Senate. Yet this current district system is undergoing a heated series of court cases.
A federal court decided earlier this year that North Carolina districts have been gerrymandered along partisan and racial lines, giving Republicans an extreme advantage in elections. The Supreme Court placed a hold on the decision until a better system for determining gerrymandering can be used in similar cases in other states, leaving the districts still gerrymandered in North Carolina for this year’s elections. While this case continues to develop, North Carolina Democrats are not going to stop giving a fight for each seat. Robert Howard, the state Democratic Party spokesman tweeted, “This is a historic day. Our party is the strongest it’s ever been and NC is fired up to break the supermajority.”
Regardless of how or when these new districts will be set, this year’s elections could potentially determine who will be deciding them.