The left-leaning political organization FlipNC released an analysis of the state called Pivotal at Every Level: Cumberland County is Ground Zero for Flipping NC Blue in 2020. The central premise is that Cumberland County has now become the most competitive county in the state. They are right.
As the report notes, the county is home two of North Carolina’s most competitive state house races and one of the most competitive state senate races. In addition, Cumberland makes up more than 40% of the new 8th Congressional District where Fayetteville native and former Supreme Court Justice Pat Timmon-Goodson is the Democratic nominee. All of the races need a big Democratic turnout, especially among African Americans, to win.
It’s not just local races, though. Statewide Democrats need Cumberland to show up in order win. In 2018, Cumberland delivered big margins for the statewide judges on the ticket. In 2008, the county gave Obama an 18-point margin over John McCain and gave Kay Hagan a 25-point advantage over Elizabeth Dole. Bev Perdue also beat Pat McCrory by 25 points in the county.
While Democrats won in Cumberland four years later, Walter Dalton’s margin in the gubernatorial race was cut to 15 points, the same about Roy Cooper won in 2016. If Democrats hope to take back the Senate seat Thom Tillis won in 2014, they need to see turnout like 2008 in Cumberland County. In particular, they need to see an uptick in African American voters this year.
Fortunately, state and national Democrats recognize the significance of Cumberland. In every presidential contest since 2008, Obama has been in Fayetteville during the last few weeks of the election. This year, Cumberland needs to see Kamala Harris, if not Biden himself.
Cumberland County is the Democratic lynchpin. If they can win big there, the margin they run up can push the state in the blue up-and-down the ballot. And as FlipNC notes, the legislative races in the county will likely determine who controls the legislature. While it might not be one of the largest counties in the state, the few thousand votes that Cumberland gives Democrats could make the difference in a state where Obama won by 14,000 votes in 2008 and the Governor won by about 10,000 votes in 2016.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >