One of the biggest talking points used by NC Democrats in the aftermath of the 2012 elections was the victories by NC Republicans up and down the ballot were solely due to gerrymandering. Well that talking point is kaput. Last month, the NC GOP clearly won the popular vote for Congress and for the General Assembly. Redistricting might have helped pad the GOP’s majorities, but ultimately it was the voters who put them in charge.
For U.S. Congress, Republicans took 55.6% of the vote to Democrats’ 44.1%. Excluding the results of the 9th district, where Pittenger was running unopposed, the tally is 52.85% for the GOP and 46.85% for the Democrats. Just remember that when you taking out the 9th district, you’re taking out a chunk of the state which voted for Romney and Tillis by double-digits. (Democrats won the popular vote for Congress in 2012 – 50.6% D, 48.8% R, 0.7% other. That’s thanks to the efforts of Reps. Kissell and McIntyre keeping their districts close.)
For the NC Senate, the GOP won 53.81% of the popular vote to 45.29% for Democrats. In the process they won 34 seats, or 68% of the total seats.
In the NC House, the GOP took 54.12% compared to the Democrats’ 43.86%. Ironically, the GOP did better in the popular vote for the House than they did in 2012 but lost a net of 3 seats, while in the Senate they actually gained a seat. In the end, Republicans ended up with 62% of seats. Still a disproportionate number of seats compared to the popular vote, not that much of a skew.
In Congress, the closest race was in the 13th, won by George Holding by 14.62%. Holding actually improved on his initial victory from 2012, when he won by 13.60%. But he did worse in Wake County – but only slightly. In 2012 he won his portion of Wake with 54.69%, in 2014 with 54.36%. Of the GOP-held congressional seats, this is the one that Democrats have the best chance of picking up going forward. By the end of the decade, in an open seat race and in a neutral environment, I imagine that the GOP would be only slightly favored. It would not be all that shocking, then, if the GOP maintains a 10-3 majority in the congressional delegation through 2023.
As far as the General Assembly goes, Democrats would need a substantial popular vote margin to take back either chamber. A 2006 or 2008-style wave would be the bare minimum, and even that probably wouldn’t do it – probably a 55-43 margin for legislative Democrats, at the least. Democrats will say publicly that their aim is to take back the majority, but realistically the best they can hope for is to eliminate the GOP’s veto-proof majorities and elect Roy Cooper to the governor’s mansion in 2016. If that happens, then we’re back to the situation we had under Bev Perdue – a lot of gridlock with the legislature calling most of the shots. For Democrats, it would be far from an ideal situation, but still a start in the right direction.
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.