Davie County is a small, rural county located directly southwest of Winston-Salem in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad region. With a relatively small population of 43,244 residents as of mid-2018, Davie has a distinct exurban element stemming from its proximity to the Triad – the county is in North Carolina’s top twenty for both average household income and post-secondary degree attainment, largely due to the presence of well-off commuters and retirees emanating from the Triad’s cities. The town of Bermuda Run in Davie’s northeastern corner epitomizes this theme – initially annexed as a fully gated residential community surrounded by golf courses and country clubs, Bermuda Run is today home to a 99% white population of three thousand residents and an average household income of over $100,000.
Outside of its northeastern corner, Davie is a much more typical rural county, historically dominated by agriculture and a textile manufacturing industry that has struggled to survive in recent decades. Davie’s centrally-located county seat of Mocksville (two miles east of Daniel Boone’s one-time home) serves as its largest town with over five thousand residents, while the county’s smallest town of Cooleemee is home to nine hundred residents on its southern border. Davie’s southeastern tip serves as the confluence of the Yadkin and South Yadkin Rivers, which join after forming the county’s eastern and southern borders.
Davie County has long been a Republican stronghold, having supported the GOP presidential nominee in all but two elections since 1900 (Woodrow Wilson’s victory in 1912 and FDR’s landslide in 1940 were the exceptions). Today, Republican presidential candidates can regularly expect to garner over 70% of the county’s vote, an exceptional margin even for the state’s historically Republican western Piedmont region. Donald Trump’s won 71.7% of the county’s vote in 2016, an impressive total but only slightly better than that of prior GOP nominees – the immense pro-Trump swing seen in many rural counties was not replicated in Davie, likely due to the presence of wealthy, well-educated exurban voters less enthralled by Trump’s brand of conservative populism.
1992 Presidential PVI: R+31 (Safe Republican)
1996 Presidential PVI: R+45 (Safe Republican)
2000 Presidential PVI: R+47 (Safe Republican)
2004 Presidential PVI: R+46 (Safe Republican)
2008 Presidential PVI: R+46 (Safe Republican)
2012 Presidential PVI: R+47 (Safe Republican)
2016 Presidential PVI: R+50 (Safe Republican)
Donald Trump – 71.71%
Hillary Clinton – 24.22%
Richard Burr – 72.03%
Deborah Ross – 23.67%
Pat McCrory – 67.94%
Roy Cooper – 29.71%
Davie County is also solidly Republican in statewide elections, having supported the GOP nominee in every contested statewide race since at least 2004. Local elections have a similar dynamic – all five county commissioners, the Register of Deeds, the Clerk of Superior Court, the Sheriff, and all three elected Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisors are Republicans, while the county’s Board of Education consists of five Republicans and two unaffiliated voters. Davie is one of only seven counties in North Carolina with no registered Democrats elected on the county level, and, indeed, the only county in North Carolina where no Democrat has won any state or county race within the last electoral cycle.
Davie’s loyalty to the GOP can also be seen in terms of voter registration – as of August 2018, 51% of the county’s voters are registered Republicans, while 31% are unaffiliated with either party and only 18% are registered Democrats. Davie’s large proportion of registered Republicans (the fifth largest statewide) is indicative of an exceptionally strong local Republican heritage, as many other predominantly Republican counties in North Carolina still have a Democratic voter registration advantage due to the party’s historical dominance.
Republicans dominate from one end of Davie County to the other, with all GOP nominees in partisan elections having carried every one of the county’s precincts in 2016. Only the county’s central precinct, home to Mocksville, can even be considered slightly competitive in partisan elections, largely due to the presence of a somewhat higher African American population. Roy Cooper came only five points away from winning the Mocksville precinct in 2016, and it was the only precinct countywide where Hillary Clinton won at least 40% of the vote.
Davie County is currently represented by in Congress by county native Ted Budd (CD-13) and in the General Assembly by state Senator Dan Barrett (SD-34) and state Representative Julia Howard (HD-79), all Republicans. As a result of legislative redistricting ahead of the 2018 elections, Howard will likely continue to represent an only slightly-modified district (now numbered HD-77), while Barrett lost the Republican primary in Davie’s newly-drawn SD-31 to fellow state Senator Joyce Krawiec. Ted Budd, while not affected by redistricting, will likely face a much more competitive general election challenge than either of Davie’s state legislators in Democratic congressional nominee Kathy Manning.
Davie’s partisan leanings have been remarkably stable in recent decades, with the county’s presidential PVI having remained within the same six-point range over the last six election cycles. The large presence of wealthy, well-educated exurban voters has created a local political culture distinct among rural North Carolina counties, as shown by the 2016 election results – Davie was largely separate from the immense pro-Trump swing in other rural areas, while Roy Cooper’s relatively strong performance among socially moderate Republicans was noticeable in the county. In future years, Davie County will likely maintain its current political leanings, having displayed no significant partisan trend in recent years – although Democrats likely prefer this lack of partisan trend over the strong Republican trend seen in other rural counties, Davie will continue to be an exceptional GOP stronghold for decades to come.