2 of 6 N Carolina constitutional amendments fail
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Once pegged as a low-thrill election cycle without major statewide races, North Carolina’s campaign season became a high-intensity fight over Republican governance in Raleigh and Washington, and whether Democrats deserve more power.
Record numbers voted early before Tuesday’s midterms, reflecting the energy and money injected into legislative, judicial and congressional races and ballot questions.
State Democrats raised mammoth sums of cash, buoyed by Gov. Roy Cooper’s call to “Break the Majority” of the GOP in both the House and Senate this decade. Appraisals of state Republican control stretched to a state Supreme Court race, where the Democrat won, and six referendums, two of which failed. Three GOP congressional seats were also threatened with close races, although Republicans held onto at least two of those.
All General Assembly seats are on ballots. Democrats angry with Republican policies on public schools, taxes, the judiciary and social issues are focusing on this year’s election at a minimum as a step toward regaining General Assembly control.
Republicans currently hold 75 of the 120 House seats and 35 of the 50 Senate seats. Democrats would need to pick up at least four House seats or six Senate seats to end the GOP’s veto-proof margins and give more leverage to Cooper to pass his initiatives, like expanding Medicaid and curbing school choice options.
To regain outright majorities for the first time since 2011, Democrats would need to win 16 more House seats overall and 11 Senate seats.
Cooper raised at least $7 million for the state Democratic Party, which passed money along to the party’s legislative candidates. Republican campaigns have highlighted the strong economy, passing lower taxes and increasing school spending and teacher raises. While many House Republican incumbents got outraised by Democratic challengers, Senate Republicans fared better.
Voters said no Tuesday to two amendments shifting power to legislators from the governor, while an amendment requiring a photo ID to vote and three others passed.
The other amendments that passed lower the cap on income tax rates; expand crime victims’ rights and enshrine the right to hunt and fish.
The six amendments Republican lawmakers submitted to voters filled the vacuum of having no races for governor or U.S. Senate. Groups for or against the amendments raised well over $20 million, according to campaign finance reports.
Cooper, the Democratic Party and allied groups pushed to defeat all six. The state GOP supported all six, but former Republican governors and the conservative Americans for Prosperity have come out against one or two individual amendments.
Voters elected Democrat Anita Earls to the state Supreme Court, unseating the Republican incumbent.
Earls, a longtime civil rights attorney from Durham, raised record campaign money and garnered national attention as she defeated Republican incumbent Justice Barbara Jackson.
Jackson was seeking a second eight-year term but got waylaid by the late entry of another registered Republican, Raleigh attorney Chris Anglin. He had been a registered Democrat until just before he filed. Democrats now hold five of the seven Supreme Court seats.
Republicans hold a 10-3 seat advantage in the state’s congressional delegation.
The most likely district to flip would be in the south-central 9th District anchored by Charlotte, where Democrat Dan McCready has outraised Republican Mark Harris, who upset current Rep. Robert Pittenger in the GOP primary in May.
In the 13th District, covering parts of Greensboro and points west to Iredell County, first-term Republican Rep. Ted Budd was able to fend off a challenge by Kathy Manning. In the Raleigh-area 2nd District, three-term GOP Rep. George Holding retained his seat over Democrat Linda Coleman.
Nine other incumbents won, while 3rd District Rep. Walter Jones Jr. faced no ballot opposition.
Early in-person voting levels smashed the previous record high for midterms in 2014 with several days to spare in this year’s 18-day period. But it’s unclear how much front-loaded voting will translate to higher overall turnout when all mail-absentee ballots and those cast Tuesday in 2,700 precincts statewide are counted.
The state elections board counted 1.97 million people voting at early-voting sites statewide before they closed Saturday, compared to 1.1 million in 2014, when 10 days of early voting occurred.
Overall 2014 election turnout was 44 percent, or 2.9 million voters. There are now nearly 7.1 million registered voters.