North Carolina House District 36: Rep. Nelson Dollar (R) vs. Jennifer Ferrell (D)

One of the hottest legislative races this cycle is in the suburbs of Wake County. Republican Nelson Dollar has been in office since 2005, is chief budget writer in the House and one of the most powerful members of the General Assembly. This year, he faces a spirited challenge from community activist Jen Ferrell, who through her Twitter account takes the concept of “safe spaces” to a whole new level.

The 36th House District takes in parts of Cary, Apex, Holly Springs, and the entire Swift Creek community. The district is affluent, rapidly-growing, and bursting at the seams with voters unaffiliated with either party. Residents tend to be fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

That social moderation is one reason Representative Dollar finds himself in trouble this year. While the district is drawn to favor Republicans, Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket and private polling shows him trailing Hillary Clinton by nearly double-digits, despite this district being a comfortable Romney win in 2012. In addition, Dollar has to contend with HB 2. Add that all up and you have the makings of a competitive race – with the right Democratic opponent.

Map of North Carolina House District 36, currently occupied by Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Cary).

Map of North Carolina House District 36, currently occupied by Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Cary).

That brings us to Jen Ferrell, Dollar’s opponent. A passionate liberal (“I’m passionate, not crazy”), Ferrell has participated in the Moral Monday movement and was even arrested at one point, a fact that Dollar points to with glee. (“How can you trust [her] to uphold the law as a legislator if she won’t follow it now?”) In addition, Ferrell has gained quite the reputation on Twitter as an advocate of “safe spaces”, blocking anyone on the social media platform with whom she disagrees, or whom she might disagree with in the future. The ranks of the blocked include a number of North Carolina conservatives, District 36 residents, elected officials with whom she might have to serve with in the General Assembly, and the writer of this post.

That said, Nelson Dollar is still very vulnerable. While he’s been endorsed by the SEANC, Dollar just barely survived a tough primary challenge from the Right back in March. So even though candidate quality matters, this is definitely the toughest fight he’s been in since 2008 – and Democrats are investing heavily here. Donald Trump, HB 2, and disenchantment from the far-right could very well prove too much for Dollar to overcome – resulting perhaps in the election of a ferocious Twitter-blocker and William Barber acolyte. Republicans can take solace that at least a Rep. Ferrell would provide some entertainment value.

Counties in district: Wake (part)

District Rating: Pure Toss-Up

2012 Result
55.0% Dollar (R)
45.0% Baker (D)

Voter Registration
36.6% Republican
32.5% Unaffiliated
30.5% Democrat

84.3% White
8.6% Other
7.1% Black

Results in Other Elections
2012 President
53.9% Romney
44.9% Obama

2012 Governor
59.3% McCrory
37.9% Dalton

2010 Senate
58.9% Burr
38.6% Marshall

2008 Senate
49.6% Dole
47.0% Hagan

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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