harnett

Harnett County is a primarily rural county located in central North Carolina, just south of Wake County. Due to its location between RTP and Fort Bragg, the area has seen substantial growth in recent years. The county seat is Lillington, but its largest city is Dunn. In 2010 the population was 114,678, the population is expected to exceed 150,000 in 2020. The county is the site of Campbell University in Buies Creek.

Harnett boasts a number of important North Carolina political figures, past and present, including Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, NC Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, former U.S. Senator Robert Burren Morgan of Lillington, and Rep. David Lewis of Dunn, who was chairman of the committee in charge of redistricting last year.

PVI
1988: R+7 (Leans Republican)
1992: R+12 (Strong Republican)
1996: R+21 (Solid Republican)
2000: R+23 (Solid Republican)
2004: R+25 (Solid Republican)
2008: R+24 (Solid Republican)
2012: R+23 (Solid Republican)

Forecast: Harnett used to boast a strong Democratic party that was rural and populist in nature. Legislative Democrats can still do well here with a good campaign. At the federal level, however, Harnett is solidly Republican and has been that way since the 1990s, when Harnett residents swung strongly against the Bill Clinton administration.

There are a number of bright spots for Democrats, however, and in recent cycles Harnett has trended ever so slightly to the left. First is the growing Hispanic population, which now constitutes about 11% of the total population. If this group of voters could be registered and turned out, that would go a long way toward helping Democratic prospects in the county. Next is the influx of new voters, many of whom are transplants from different areas of the country. It would be helpful to do a precinct analysis in order to ascertain the political tendencies of these new arrivals.

Democrats have a long way to go, however. Barack Obama failed to hit 40% of the vote here last year, even though Harnett has a decent-sized (21%) black population. However, Harnett is definitely a county to keep an eye on. The rapid growth and potential demographic change has the ability to substantially alter the political makeup of Harnett County. But so far, these effects have been miniscule.

John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: johncwynne@gmail.com.

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