Elections have consequences, as we know all too well. This year’s Nov. 8 midyear elections could prove to be among the most consequential on both the federal and state levels.
Whichever party controls the White House traditionally loses large numbers of congressional seats in midterm elections. With both chambers having razor thin Democrat pluralities, our votes could help tip the scales to one or the other party. In January, political observers were ready to concede control of both the Senate and the House from Democrats to Republicans, but in recent weeks polls reveal voter reversals and some senior Republican Senators, are acknowledging that Democrats might retain control of the Senate and maybe even the House. Privately they concede many Trump-endorsed candidates don’t have requisite qualifications and Republicans are on the wrong side of the abortion issue.
Our U.S. Senate race, in which former Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley is running against Congressman Ted Budd, might be the one that decides Senate party control. Beasley, the Democrat, narrowly lost re-election as Chief Justice by just 401 votes in 2020. Budd, a Republican Congressman, won a surprisingly easy May 17th primary election over former Governor Pat McCrory and former congressman Mark Walker. Trump endorsed Budd and the congressman has received multimillion-dollars in support from “The Club for Growth.” We will watch to see if Trump and/or outside groups can combine to win the seat. Budd himself has not actively campaigned and, to this point, has avoided debating the Democrat. Beasley, a strong retail politician, has solicited votes in every county. Polls indicate the outcome is close, with the latest showing Beasley up by a point.
All 14 Congressional districts are up for election. Previously, North Carolina sent 10 Republicans and three Democrats to Washington, however newly drawn districts promise a better mix. The consensus of reputable forecasting organizations is that we will elect eight Republicans and six Democrats to our congressional delegation.
Several open seats and tossup districts are worth watching. In the first district, long represented by G.K. Butterfield, Democrat Don Davis is favored to win over Republican Sandy Smith. David Price retired and his 4th district seat is open. Democrat Valerie Foushee is favored to win over Courtney Geels. In a redrawn 13th District, the Bo Hines (Republican) and Wiley Nickel (Democrat) contest could be insightful. The Trump-endorsed Hines has not run an especially good campaign, while Nickel’s experience seems to be paying off in a formerly Republican district. In the newly created 14th District there is no incumbent, however Democrat Jeff Jackson, a seasoned member of the legislature, is given a slight edge to defeat Republican Jeff Harrigan. As with the Senate, North Carolina’s results could help determine which party runs the House come January.
North Carolina’s appellate court contests could be very consequential. Few know those running, so the contests frequently turn into a party preference. In the Supreme Court there are currently four Democrats and three Republicans on the seven-member high court. Two contested races could potentially change that mix. In seat 5, Incumbent Justice Sam J. Ervin IV is standing for re-election against Republican Trey Allen, general counsel for the Administrative Office of the Courts. Seat 3 is open, with two Court of Appeals Judges seeking the seat. Democrat Lucy Inman will be challenged by Republican Richard Dietz.
Four N.C. Court of Appeals elections also are significant, since most cases are decided by three-judge panels. Seat 8, currently vacant since Lucy Inman is running for the higher court, is being contested by Democrat Carolyn Jennings Thompson, a former District and Superior Court judge and Republican Julee Tate Flood. Seat 9 finds Republican Donna Stroud, the current Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, being contested by Democrat Beth Freshwater Smith, a District Court judge. In seat 10 incumbent Republican John Tyson is running against Gale Murray Adams, a Democratic Superior Court judge. And in seat 11, incumbent Democrat Darren Jackson will be challenged by Republican Michael Stading, a former Air Force Judge Advocate General officer.
Note that we gave the party affiliations for each contestant. In previous years that wouldn’t have been important, but recently we have increasingly seen court outcomes determined along party lines. The party with the plurality can determine outcomes in cases like Voter ID, election laws, abortion and redistricting.
Not to be overlooked is elections for all 170 seats in our legislature. In 2018, the last midyear election, we experienced a “blue wave,” where Democrats gained sufficient numbers in both chambers to negate the veto-proof majorities Republicans previously enjoyed. Most observers believe the House districts are less blatantly gerrymandered, however the prediction is that the General Assembly will remain controlled by the Republican Party. The big question is whether they will regain veto-proof majorities.
Many questions beg answering. Will there be a blue wave again this year? What impact will the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion have in activating women and abortion advocates? Does Donald Trump still dominate Republicans and will his endorsements win? Where will mainstream Republicans and Unaffiliated voters stand? What, if anything, will this election show us about what to expect in 2024?
However you choose to vote, the important thing for our Democracy is to exercise your American privilege to vote. Democracy works better when many give their input.
Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina Broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965. He recently retired from writing, producing and moderating the statewide half-hour TV program NC SPIN that aired 22 ½ years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org