Northampton County is located in northeastern North Carolina along the Virginia border. The county seat is Jackson. It is a small, rural county with a population of about 20,000 residents. It is majority black.
Northampton holds the record for the longest in-state Democratic winning streak at the presidential level. The last time the county went for a Republican was in 1896, when Northampton voters opted for William McKinley over William Jennings Bryan. Northampton’s demographics then were similar to the way they are now, and this was before the era when blacks were restricted from voting. After 1898, the state passed a number of Jim Crow laws restricting the rights of blacks to vote, and the county consistently voted for Democratic candidates thereafter, the party of white Southerners, who now controlled the politics of the county.
African Americans regained political power in the 1960s, continuing the Democratic winning streak even as many whites turned away from their traditional party. In 1972, thanks in part to the efforts of Democratic operative Sonny Boy Joyner, the county was one of two in the state to vote for George McGovern, the other being Orange. Since then, the county has not been competitive at the presidential level, and the increased registration of African Americans has put Northampton further out of reach for Republican candidates.
1988: D+38 (Solid Democratic)
1992: D+36 (Solid Democratic)
1996: D+36 (Solid Democratic)
2000: D+34 (Solid Democratic)
2004: D+31 (Solid Democratic)
2008: D+23 (Solid Democratic)
2012: D+31 (Solid Democratic)
Forecast: If it wasn’t before, Northampton is now an inelastic county – whites by and large vote Republican, blacks vote Democrat. In 2012, it trended to the Democrats more than any county in the state, this is probably thanks to the county’s large black population. With Obama off the ballot, African Americans will probably turn out in lesser numbers, which will help Republicans. But as long as Northampton is a majority black county, Republicans have no chance of winning here, which goes without saying.
The county has a weak growth rate, and future demographic change is unlikely. In 2010, there were only 13 more residents in the county than there were in 2000. The county is expected to remain solidly Democratic for a long time to come.
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.