2018 NC House Election Ratings
As Election Day approaches, PoliticsNC is releasing ratings for each of North Carolina’s congressional and legislative elections. We’ve already covered elections for the United States House of Representatives and the North Carolina Senate, and we’ll now be analyzing this year’s races for the North Carolina House of Representatives.
The North Carolina House of Representatives consists of one hundred and twenty members, each of whom represent single-member districts for two-year terms. All one hundred and twenty seats are up this November. Republicans gained control of the chamber in 2010, and after redrawing district maps in 2011, surpassed the supermajority threshold of seventy-two seats in 2012. The GOP currently holds seventy-five seats in the chamber, while Democrats hold forty-five seats. However, 2017 saw federal judges strike down nineteen House districts as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, requiring legislators to substantially revise district lines ahead of the 2018 elections. This year, Democrats must regain a net total of four seats to break the House’s Republican supermajority, and sixteen seats to win the chamber as a whole.
The following map displays PoliticsNC’s ratings for the 2018 North Carolina House of Representatives elections, followed by an analysis of the electoral landscape:
NC County Profiles
As a result of court-mandated redistricting, Republicans ceded three formerly GOP-leaning districts to the Democrats, resulting in three near-certain Democratic pickups – Kandie Smith in HD-08 (Pitt County), James Gaillard in HD-25 (Nash County), and Ashton Clemmons in HD-57 (Guilford County) are all expected to replace retiring Republican incumbents.
However, the redrawn maps do place four Democratic incumbents at significant risk, with all four incumbents facing tossup races this November. In HD-07 (Franklin and Nash counties), Democratic incumbent Bobbie Richardson faces Republican Nash County Commissioner Lisa Stone Barnes, who holds a fundraising advantage in a district Donald Trump won by eighteen points in 2016. In HD-12 (Lenoir and Pitt counties), Democratic incumbent George Graham is running against Republican former Lenoir County Commissioner Chris Humphrey, who has outraised the incumbent in a district Trump won by five points. In HD-40 (Wake County), Democratic incumbent Joe John faces Republican former Representative Marilyn Avila, with Avila seeking a rematch after being defeated by John in 2016. And in HD-66 (Richmond, Montgomery, and Stanly counties), Democratic incumbent Ken Goodman is running against Republican Joey Davis in a district Trump won by eighteen points, although Goodman is widely seen as the most moderate member of the Democratic caucus and maintains a fundraising advantage. Of the four at-risk Democrats, John is the likeliest to win another term, followed by Goodman, Graham, and the particularly vulnerable Richardson.
As Republicans ceded three seats to the Democrats but redrew four Democratic incumbents into GOP-leaning districts, Democratic candidates have a clear advantage in only forty-four districts (the party currently holds forty-five). In addition to the four vulnerable Democratic-held seats, fourteen Republican-held seats are considered tossups this year.
In the Inner Banks region of northeastern North Carolina, former Chowan County Commissioner Ed Goodwin (R) faces Bertie County Commissioner Ron Wesson (D) in the open HD-01 (Bertie, Chowan, Perquimans, Washington, Tyrrell, and Camden counties), with incumbent Bob Steinburg (R) retiring to run for state Senate. North of the Triangle in HD-02 (Granville and Person counties), incumbent Larry Yarborough (R) faces former Creedmoor Mayor Darryl Moss (D). And south of Wilmington, incumbent Ted Davis (R) faces a challenge from retired Army Colonel Marcia Morgan (D) in the coastal HD-19 (New Hanover County). Wesson’s district is typically the most Democratic of the three, while Moss’s popularity in Granville County and the Democratic trend in New Hanover County result in all three races joining the tossup column.
In Wake County, Democrats are eyeing all three Republican-held districts, hoping for a full sweep of the county’s eleven House seats (they currently hold Wake’s seven safe Democratic seats in addition to the northwestern Wake tossup held by John). In HD-35 (northeastern Wake), incumbent Chris Malone (R) faces attorney Terence Everitt (D), who lost to Malone by a small margin in 2016. In HD-36 (southeastern Wake), incumbent Nelson Dollar (R) faces Julie von Haefen (D). And in HD-37 (southwestern Wake), incumbent John Adcock (R) – who was appointed in September 2018 after fellow Republican Linda Hunt Williams resigned to move to Louisiana – faces attorney Sydney Batch (D). Everitt and Batch are mild favorites in their respective races, while von Haefen faces a more difficult race against the well-known, well-funded Dollar.
South of Wake, incumbent John Sauls (R) faces a challenge from the well-funded Lisa Mathis (D) in HD-51 (Lee and Harnett counties). In HD-63 (Alamance County), meanwhile, incumbent Steve Ross (R) faces Erica McAdoo (D) in a district targeted heavily by Triangle-area grassroots organizers.
In Mecklenburg County, all four Republican-held seats are at risk of flipping (none of the county’s eight Democratic-held seats are competitive). In HD-98 (Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville), incumbent John Bradford (R) is running against paralegal and gun reform advocate Christy Clark (D). In HD-103 (Matthews, Mint Hill), incumbent Bill Brawley (R) faces mediator Rachel Hunt (D) in a typically Republican district made competitive by Hunt’s name recognition and fundraising success (her father is former governor Jim Hunt). And in south Charlotte, two Republican incumbents are vulnerable – Andy Dulin (R) faces well-funded attorney Brandon Lofton (D) in HD-04, while Scott Stone (R) faces economic consultant Wesley Harris (D) in HD-05. Lofton is arguably the likeliest of the four challengers to win come November, as Clark and Hunt are running in more reliably Republican districts and Harris is at a fundraising disadvantage.
In the mountain region, another two Republican legislators are running for reelection in tossup races. Incumbent Jonathan Jordan (R) faces a challenge from well-known local weatherman Ray Russell (D) in HD-93 (Watauga and Ashe counties), a district known for frequently close election outcomes. In HD-119 (Jackson, Swain, and Haywood counties), meanwhile, incumbent Mike Clampitt (R) is running against former representative Joe Sam Queen (D), who is seeking a rematch in a historically Democratic district he lost to Clampitt in 2016.
In addition to the eighteen tossups, six races lean Republican but could flip on a particularly successful night for Democrats. In the Wilmington area, incumbent Holly Grange (R) faces a challenge from artist Leslie Cohen (D), who has run a spirited grassroots campaign in the historically Republican but Democratic-trending HD-20 (New Hanover County). In the Triad area, meanwhile, three suburban districts pit Republican incumbents against strong Democratic challengers – incumbent John Faircloth (R) faces retired hospital administrator Martha Shafer (D) in HD-62 (western Guilford), incumbent Debra Conrad (R) faces attorney Terri LeGrand (D) in HD-74 (northern Forsyth), and incumbent Donny Lambeth (R) faces Winston-Salem Councilman Dan Besse (D) in HD-75 (southern Forsyth). And in the historically Republican Cabarrus County, two GOP legislators are potentially at risk – incumbent Linda Johnson (R) faces former principal Aimy Steele in HD-82 (west Cabarrus), while incumbent Larry Pittman (R) faces consultant Gail Young in HD-83 (central Cabarrus and southern Rowan).
Assuming Democrats win all of the seats considered likely or safe Democratic, the party’s candidates need only to win five of the eighteen tossup districts to break the Republican supermajority. Reaching an outright majority in the chamber, however, requires winning seventeen of the eighteen tossup districts or at least some of the six districts that lean Republican. Our model suggests that a 65-55 GOP majority in the chamber is the most probable outcome – Democrats are likely to force House Republicans below the supermajority threshold, but winning the chamber outright will be a much more difficult task. Predictions like these come with a substantial margin of error, however, so any result is possible come November 6.