Last month, the consensus was that Wake County’s school bond had few statewide implications. Just because a solidly Democratic county endorsed education didn’t mean the idea would catch on elsewhere. Just over the county line, another school bond referendum proved the consensus wrong.
On Tuesday, Johnston County voters approved school and community college bonds. The margins of victory were an identical 76%-24%. This large a margin is striking, because exurban areas tend to fiercely oppose taxation and spending. Even there, now, voters appear anxious to mitigate education cuts.
Thus, concerns over public education aren’t limited to liberal regions. Johnston just showed that a pro-education message can resonate in exurban counties–such as Cabarrus, which happens to have a singularly odious legislator. Rural areas may be just as receptive. Since they’re starved for cash, the small towns will find greater state funding particularly attractive.
More concretely, the Johnston County referendum points toward a senate pick-up opportunity. Demographically similar, exurban Harnett County is represented by a vulnerable incumbent, the egregious Ronald Rabin. A challenger could appeal to the type of exurban parents who just voted in Johnston. That Rabin is a snarling enemy of college students make the case even more potent.
Paired with Monday’s protests, the Johnston County referendum proves the education message is strong. The most anti-government areas are standing up for Democratic priorities. This is good for Democrats. Even better: The asinine rants of a certain free-market fundamentalist who’s lost his razor.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.