Brunswick County is located in coastal North Carolina, along the South Carolina border. It is adjacent to New Hanover County and the Wilmington area. The county seat is Bolivia. As of 2010, its population was 107,431 – a 46.9% increase over its 2000 population. Wealthy retirees have been attracted to the area for its beaches, and a high rate of growth continues to the present. The county is also noted for the town of Calabash, known for its seafood.
Formerly part of the Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical area, the Office of Management and Budget has now assigned Brunswick County to the Myrtle Beach area. Leaders in the Wilmington area, including Rep. Mike McIntyre, are contesting the move.
Politically, Brunswick is a strongly Republican county. A large number of wealthy transplants has helped make Brunswick a strong red county, along with disaffection of conservative white Democrats. Brunswick cast over 60% of its vote for Mitt Romney in 2012. Romney’s bested George W. Bush’s 2004 performance in the county.
Bald Head Island in Brunswick County is also the home of Claude Pope, newly elected chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party.
1988: R+4 (Toss-Up)
1992: R+0 (Toss-Up)
1996: R+8 (Leans Republican)
2000: R+8 (Leans Republican)
2004: R+18 (Solid Republican)
2008: R+24 (Solid Republican)
2012: R+27 (Solid Republican)
Forecast: Once an impoverished rural county and favorable to Democrats, Brunswick is now affluent and Republican at all levels of government. This is one area where growth definitely benefits Republicans, and they should do everything in their power to make sure it continues. The Republican trend in Brunswick County is especially dangerous for Rep. Mike McIntyre because these new residents are unlike the rural conservative Democrats he relies on and are less predisposed to splitting their tickets in his favor.
Growth continues in Brunswick to the present, albeit at a much slower rate due to the recession. The county grew by 46.88% during the 2000s, it is very unlikely to match that pace in the 2010s. Demographically, Brunswick is more white, not less, and the African American share of the population is in decline. Hispanic growth is robust but they compose only 5% of the population and an even smaller share of the electorate.
The message for Republicans should be clear: develop the beach areas of the state – fast!