Full Disclosure: I am working with Pat Timmons-Goodson to launch her campaign.
Fuller Disclosure: I couldn’t be more proud to be helping her campaign.
When Republicans in the North Carolina legislature redrew Congressional districts last fall, they gave themselves seven safe seats, gave Democrats five safe seats and left one that’s a Republican lean. That one is North Carolina’s Eighth Congressional District. It shifted from a district that Trump won by fourteen points to a district Trump won by nine. That may not seem like a lot, but in 2018, Democrats across the country picked up more than a few seats that were more Republican than NC-08.
For Democrats to win in a district like that, they need a lot to go right. In particular, they need the right candidate. This year they got her. Pat Timmons-Goodson filed to challenge incumbent Republican Richard Hudson.
Timmons-Goodson was the first African-American woman to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court. She was appointed to the seat by Governor Mike Easley and then won a resounding victory the next year. She began her judicial career at just 29 years old when she served three terms on the District Court in Cumberland County. She went on to serve almost eight years on the Court of Appeals before being elevated to the Supreme Court.
After Timmons-Goodson retired from the court, Barack Obama appointed her to serve on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, “an independent, bipartisan, fact-finding federal agency” whose “mission is to inform the development of national civil rights policy and enhance enforcement of federal civil rights laws.” He also nominated her to the US District Court, and the American Bar Association gave her its highest rating. Unfortunately, her nomination fell victim to petty political bickering in Washington and the Senate refused to consider her nomination.
Timmons-Goodson brings star power to the race. She’s widely respected across the state and has a national network of supporters, too. She spent her career as a judge who for years listed her political registration as unaffiliated to keep the appearance of politics out of her courtroom and decisions. That’s a great contrast to Hudson who has spent his entire career as a political hack who once worked for Robin Hayes, the disgraced former Congressman and GOP party chair who is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI.
The district got more Democratic, in large part, because Republicans put all of Cumberland County into the new district instead of splitting it between the 8th and 9th CDs. Cumberland now makes up a whopping 43% of the district. In 2018, the statewide Democratic judicial candidates won the county by about 20%.
Timmons-Goodson brings a hometown advantage that could build on that margin. She graduated from high school in Fayetteville and her father was an Army Ranger and career soldier who served two tours of duty in Vietnam, strong points in a military town. She could also serve as a rallying point for the African American community that makes up almost 40% of Cumberland County and 24% of the district as a whole. A high turnout of black voters helps Democrats up and down the ballot.
To win in the 8th Congressional District, a Democrat must win the eastern part of the district, anchored by Cumberland County, by a wider margin than they lose the west, where Cabarrus County dominates. Timmons-Goodson is a candidate who could run up the score in Cumberland and offset GOP margins in the surrounding counties of Harnett, Moore and Lee. In the west, Cabarrus County makes up 24% of NC-08. While it’s still solidly Republican, it’s one of the fastest growing counties in the state and the GOP margin has been shrinking every cycle for the past 20 years. Timmons-Goodson doesn’t need to win Cabarrus, but might benefit from the demographic changes.
Pat Timmons-Goodson puts NC-08 in play. Her reputation and network should give her the resources to put together a strong campaign. To win, she’ll need a strong turnout of African American voters and she’ll need educated suburban whites to continue to split with Trump. Her profile and Trump’s bellicosity make both scenarios possible. NC-08 is the Congressional race to watch in North Carolina.