The 35th State House District is located in the northeastern suburbs of Wake County. It includes the towns of Wake Forest, Zebulon, Rolesville, and Knightdale. The current representative is Chris Malone, who coasted to reelection in 2014, winning by over 12 points and carrying every precinct on Election Day.
This time, things might be different. Not only does Malone have an active opponent who is raising money and receiving support from the Democratic caucus, he has to contend with an unpopular figure at the top of the ballot: Donald Trump.
On the campaign trail, Malone is emphasizing education and the economy, which is booming in the district. Malone attributes this to the business-friendly actions of the General Assembly. On education, he points to continued raises for teachers without cutting teacher’s assistants and growing support for alternative educational options. On district-specific issues, he touts $144,000 appropriated for downtown Wake Forest and $250,000 steered to Wendell to rebuild an old bridge, as well as a mill manufacturing bill that will help manufacturers in the district. Malone also appropriated about half of the money the state got from the sale of the Dorothea Dix property to build over 150 new mental health crisis beds around the state.
Like almost every other Democrat running for office in North Carolina this year, Malone’s Democratic opponent, Terence Everitt, charges that Malone and the Republican-led legislature has shortchanged public education. A mailer from his campaign points to Malone as part of the problem. Everitt, a trial lawyer, calls himself “a parent, not a politician.”
Democrats are targeting Wake County heavily this year, and Malone is among several legislators in the county they hope to dislodge. They might be disappointed in Malone’s case, however. Not only is his district the most Republican of the targeted seats, his campaign has an excellent ground game that could make the difference in this suburban district. Malone also dismisses Democratic hopes for a big night in Wake County this November, pointing out that not all of Wake County is solidly blue, and some areas – like his district – are red.
In the end, the election will be more about what happens nationally. Trump is overwhelmingly unpopular in suburban districts, and this could lead to Malone’s downfall. Another issue that could prove problematic: HB 2, which Malone voted for. However, Malone says that voters he meets mostly want to hear about education and job creation. And on those issues, they’re generally supportive of what the Republican legislature has done.
Regardless, this will be a race to watch on Election Night. If Malone falls, that will mean trouble for other Republican legislators in the area like Gary Pendleton, Marilyn Avila, and Nelson Dollar. Right now, I project that Democrats will fall just short here, thanks to the lean of the district.
Counties in district: Wake (part)
District Rating: Leans Republican
56.3% Malone (R)
43.7% Mountcastle (D)
Results in Other Elections
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.