A couple weeks ago I detailed a State Senate seat which has a good chance of being a rare GOP pickup. Today, we’re going to be looking at another seat, this time in the State House, which could also potentially help the GOP pad its margins in the General Assembly. But these seats are the exceptions in a year where Republicans are largely playing defense.
House District 2 is located in the Piedmont, north of the Research Triangle and on the Virginia border. Part of Granville County and all of Person County comprises the district. Although Democrats have a huge edge in voter registration, Mitt Romney easily carried the district and it is a competitive seat. Its present occupant is W.A. ‘Winkie’ Wilkins, a Democrat.
The district was created as a result of the 2011 redistricting, double-bunking Wilkins with Jim Crawford, one of the most conservative Democrats in the State House. Wilkins, the more liberal of the two, easily defeated Crawford in the primary and went on to be reelected in 2012. But this term will be his last, as Wilkins announced his retirement earlier this year.
Despite the overwhelming lead for Democrats in terms of voter registration, Wilkins’ victory here in 2012 was largely personal, thanks to a 2-1 margin of victory in his home county of Person, while at the same time the county’s voters backed Mitt Romney for president and Pat McCrory for governor. Wilkins, while more of a liberal, is a relic of a time when conservative, white rural voters were strongly Democratic at the local level. In an open seat situation, HD-2 voters are more likely to fall into the “new normal” paradigm of rural voters backing conservative Republicans, making this perhaps the best pickup opportunity for the GOP in either chamber of the General Assembly.
The candidates this year are Democrat Ray Jeffers, a Person County Commissioner, and Republican businessman Larry Yarborough. As of the last reporting period, Yarborough had $13,620 cash on hand while Jeffers had only $1,046. The financial disparity suggests that despite the unpopularity of the GOP legislature, voters in HD-02 are willing to replace their longtime Democrat incumbent with a solid conservative Republican.
Jeffers will need a substantial backlash against the General Assembly and will have to prove to be an exceptional campaigner in order to win in November. In the end, conservative white Democrats will probably back the Republican Yarborough, another House seat in a rural, historically Democratic area of NC lost because of the perceived liberalism of that party. But because of the uncertainty as to how voters will react to the legislature at the polls, this gets a rating of only Leans Republican. Democrats will need to greatly exceed expectations in order to retain this seat in one of the few “Blue Dog” territories where they are still strong.
Counties in district: Granville (part), Person
District Rating: Leans Republican
56.7% Wilkins (D)
43.3% Karan (R)
Results in Other Elections
Social Media Support
Commissioner Ray Jeffers (D) – 1,029
Larry Yarborough (R) – 462
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: email@example.com.