During the last election cycle, I analyzed all of the potentially competitive North Carolina State Senate districts. The state’s 50th District was not among them. Thus, it was a surprise when incumbent Republican State Senator Jim Davis won his election by only 54%-46% on Election Night.

This year, I won’t be making the same mistake – this could be this cycle’s sleeper Senate contest. Davis’s opponent from last time, Jane Hipps, a public certified nurse practitioner, is back for a rematch and is raising an impressive amount of money. As of the last financial quarter, Hipps reported having over $144,000 cash on hand, while Davis had less than $8,000. That kind of money can go far in the state’s westernmost Senate district, which comprises seven counties – some of them staunchly Republican, others staunchly Democratic (at least at the legislative level).

This is an interesting district for a number of reasons. One, it’s impressive the number of white Democrats there are in this part of Appalachia. Two, party loyalties are intense and often go back to the Civil War. And third, it’s just the right sort of district where Donald Trump should outperform your average Republican. My guess is that in the end, he’ll run ahead of the incumbent state senator.

On his website, Davis touts his accomplishments on some local issues and emphasizes the need for Medicaid reform, fiscal discipline, and infrastructure reform. His Democratic opponent stands for more money for public education, Medicaid reform, and protecting the environment. This is not an affluent district so a populist platform is often a winning one. But the recent election results here should be discouraging for Democrats, especially given the fact that Trump could prove to have unprecedented strength here.

For those reasons, I don’t think this is the year we see Jim Davis go down. But this is still a contest to watch. So keep an eye on it.

Counties in district: Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain

District Rating: Likely Republican

2014 Result
53.9% Davis (R)
46.1% Hipps (D)

Voter Registration
41.1% Democratic
33.1% Republican
25.7% Unaffiliated

94.4% White
1.0% Black
4.6% Other

Results in Other Elections
2012 President
60.1% Romney
38.4% Obama

2012 Governor
59.4% McCrory
37.4% Dalton

2010 Senate
58.3% Burr
38.4% Marshall

2008 Senate
49.5% Dole
46.9% Hagan

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: johncwynne@gmail.com.

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