In North Carolina, the political stars of 2019 were the Democrats in the North Carolina House and Senate. They showed that they’ve learned how to be a minority party. They upheld the Governor’s veto time and again without losing the news narrative. In the process, they’ve set themselves up to be truly competitive for the first time in a decade.

Democrats started the decade by losing their majorities in both houses of the legislature for the first time in over 100 years. Two years later, they lost the governorship, too. They floundered for the first half of the decade as they tried to figure out how operate as a minority party.

But by 2016, Democrats had organized. They defeated an incumbent Republican governor, despite losing the state to Donald Trump. In 2018, their organization and motivation ended the veto proof majorities the GOP held in both houses of the legislature. Then, throughout the 2019 session, the Democratic caucuses held together. They stopped the worst of the GOP’s legislation, including a budget that shortchanged our schools and failed to expand Medicaid.

House minority leader Darren Jackson and Senate minority leader Dan Blue get credit for leadership. Even when members voted for the original bill, they were able to keep their caucuses together to sustain vetoes. Governor Roy Cooper’s team gets some credit, too, for showing an ability to work with the legislative bodies, something that can often be tricky even when they are all of the same party. 

Significantly, Democrats head into the important 2020 election cycle unified and with few internal splits. They’re building organizations and launching campaigns in districts across the state. After a decade in the minority, they’ve learned how to go on the offensive. It’s a crucial lesson to learn on the way to being the majority. 

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