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NC Public Policy Update: 2018 Midterm Election

November 7, 2018

The 2018 General Election has come and gone, that means no more campaign advertisements for at least a little while, and several new faces in Raleigh for the 2019-2020 North Carolina General Assembly.  A total of 3,692,509 voters, or 52.08% of the electorate, turned out to vote.  This is high for a midterm election; in fact, it was the highest midterm electoral participation for NC since 1990.  It was exceptionally high for a “Blue Moon” election, meaning there was not a statewide race at the top of the ballot. 

It was a good night for Democrats.  Legislative Democrats needed a net gain of four seats in the House, and six seats in the Senate, to break the Republican supermajorities in either chamber.  Only one of the 170 legislative seats was uncontested.  In District 107, incumbent Rep. Kelly Alexander (D-Mecklenburg) ran unopposed because his Republican opponent was ruled ineligible.  The Democrats were successful, breaking the Republican supermajority in at least the House, and probably the Senate as well, pending recounts.  A supermajority, or a three-fifths majority, is the threshold needed to override a Governor’s veto.  Breaking the supermajority in at least one chamber was the minimum goal for North Carolina Democrats, in order to make Governor Cooper’s (D) veto relevant in a Republican dominated legislature. 

If last night’s results stand, Democrats will have gained a net of nine seats in the NC House and six seats in the NC Senate.  Six races currently fall within the 1% threshold for a candidate to call for a recount.  In the House, Districts 63, 98, & 103, and in the Senate, Districts 9, 19, & 27 fall within the 1% margin of victory.  If recounts are called for, the official outcome of those races may not be known for several weeks.

The “blue wave” selectively washed over Wake and Mecklenburg counties, and a few seats in other areas, but it was not the statewide electoral backlash many anticipated.  Wake County saw all three of its remaining Republican House members swept from office, including powerful House Appropriations Chairman Nelson Dollar (R-Wake).  Sen. John Alexander is the only remaining Republican in the Wake County delegation.  In Mecklenburg, two house races are in recount territory, Rep. John Bradford (R-Mecklenburg) is down slightly and Rep. Bill Brawley (R-Mecklenburg) is up just 52 votes.  If neither is able to pull out a victory, Mecklenburg will also have no Republicans in its House delegation, leaving Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), as the lone Republican in the Mecklenburg delegation.

In the Senate, three Republicans are within the recount range.  Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) trails former Wilmington Mayor Harper Peterson by less than 50 votes, and Sen. Wesley Meredith (R-Cumberland) and Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Guilford) both trail their opponents by less than 1%.  Other notable races in the House include Rep. Jonathan Jordan’s (R-Watauga) loss, as well as Rep. Mike Clampitt’s (R-Swain) loss in his rematch to former Rep. Joe Sam Queen (D-Haywood).  Republicans appear to have upset Rep. Bobbie Richardson (D-Franklin) and Rep. George Graham (D-Lenoir), although Lenoir County had technical issues last night and has only reported five of the 27 precincts in Graham’s district.  Sen. Louis Pate’s (R-Wayne) district has also not fully reported, with just 30 of 52 precincts in, although he is expected to win.

Republicans did manage to keep their majorities in the NC House and Senate, but the dynamic will be very different heading into the 2019-20 Session, which could drag well into the fall amidst posturing and deal making.  Republicans will be required to pass legislation that can gain bipartisan support, or make deals to bring enough Democrats over on particular votes to override Cooper’s vetoes. That being said, buckle up for when the NCGA returns the week after Thanksgiving.  Lawmakers return on the 27th of this month, and will likely try to pass a laundry list of legislation before they have to give up their supermajorities.

Competitive Senate:

District 1 – OPEN – Rep. Bob Steinburg (R-Chowan) 53.25% v. D. Cole Phelps (D) 46.75%
District 5Sen. Don Davis (D-Greene) 55.15% v. Kimberly Robb (D) 44.85%
*District 7 – Sen. Louis Pate (R-Wayne) 54.76% v. David Brantley (D) 45.24% not fully reported
*District 9 – Sen. Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) 48.45% v. Harper Peterson 48.49%
District 13Sen. Danny Britt (R-Robeson) 62.79% v. John Campbell 37.21%
District 17 – Sen. Tamara Barringer (R-Wake) 46.53% v. Sam Searcy 50.44%
District 18Sen. John Alexander (R-Wake) 49.85% v. Mack Paul 47.42%
*District 19 – Sen. Wesley Meredith (R-Cumberland) 49.74% v. Kirk DeViere 50.26%
District 25Sen. Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) 57.22% v. Helen Probst Mills 42.78%
*District 27 – Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Guilford) 49.57% v. Michael Garret 50.43% (2016 rematch)
District 41 – Sen. Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenburg) 43.32% v. Natasha Marcus 56.68%

Competitive House:

District 1 – OPEN – Ron Wesson (D) 46.88% v. Eddy Goodwin (R) 53.12%
District 2Rep. Larry Yarborough (R-Person) 55.38% v. Darryl Moss (D) 44.62%
District 6 – OPEN – Tess Judge (D) 44.93% v. Bobby Hanig (R) 55.07%
District 7 – Rep. Bobbie Richardson (D-Franklin) 42.01% v. Lisa Barnes (R) 57.99%
*District 12 – Rep. George Graham (D-Lenoir) 43.21% v. Chris Humphrey (R) 56.79% not fully reported
District 19Rep. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover) 49.42% v. Marcia Morgan (D) 46.78%
District 20Rep. Holly Grange (R-New Hanover) 52.82% - Leslie Cohen (D) 47.18%
District 21 – OPEN – Raymond Smith (D) 52.58% v. Robert Freeman (R) 47.42%
District 22Rep. Bill Brisson (R-Bladen) 56.73% v. Tony Denning (D) 43.27%
District 24Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson) 50.77% v Ken Fontenot (U) 49.23%
District 25 – OPEN – James Gailliard (D) 51.43% v. John Check (R) 48.57%
District 35 – Rep. Chris Malone (R-Wake) 45.59% v. Terence Everitt (D) 51.06% (2016 rematch)
District 36 – Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) 47.71% v. Julie Van Haefen 49.32%
District 37 – Rep. John Adcock (R-Wake) 48.01% v. Sydney Batch 49.76%
District 40Rep. Joe John (D-Wake) 51.49% v. former Rep. Marilyn Avila 44.75% (2016 rematch)
District 44Rep. Billy Richardson (D-Cumberland) 56.48% v. Linda Devore 43.52%
District 46Rep. Brenden Jones (R-Columbus) 63.54% v. Barbara Yates-Lockamy 36.46%
District 51Rep. John Sauls (R-Lee) 52.89% v. Lisa Mathis 47.11%
*District 63 – Rep. Steve Ross (R-Alamance) 50.49% v. Erica McAdoo 49.51%
District 66Rep. Ken Goodman (D-Richmond) 50.89% v. Joey Davis 46.99%
District 93 – Rep. Jonathan Jordan (R-Watauga) 47.96 v. Ray Russell 52.04%
*District 98 – Rep. John Bradford (R-Mecklenburg) 49.6% v. Christy Clark 50.4%
*District 103 – Rep. Bill Brawley (R-Mecklenburg) 50.06% v. Rachel Hunt 49.94%
District 104 – Rep. Andy Dulin (R-Mecklenburg) 48.36% v. Brandon Lofton 51.64%
District 105 – Rep. Scott Stone (R-Mecklenburg) 47.84% v. Wesley Harris 52.16%
District 115Rep. John Ager (D-Buncombe) 58.24% v. Amy Evans 41.76%
District 116Rep. Brian Turner (D-Buncombe) 54.89% v. Marilyn Brown 45.11%
District 118Rep. Michelle Presnell (R-Yancey) 57.24% v. Rhonda Schandevel 42.76% (2016 rematch)
District 119 – Rep. Mike Clampitt (R-Swain) 47.69% v. former Rep. Joe Sam Queen 52.31% (2016 rematch)

You may view all election results from Congress to local races on the State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement website here.

A 4-minute recap of North Carolina’s midterm elections – Longleaf Politics
Republicans Lose Supermajorities In North Carolina General Assembly – WUNC


In the State’s congressional races, the status quo appears to have prevailed.  The race between Rev. Mark Harris (R) and Dan McReady (D) in NC-9 is close, but it appears Harris will prevail and NC will send ten Republicans and three Democrats back to Congress.  For many of the State’s Republicans, it will be the first time they will be in the minority as Democrats retook the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the high profile race for North Carolina’s Supreme Court, incumbent Justice Barbara Jackson (R) was unsuccessful in fending off civil rights attorney Anita Earls (D).  There were no judicial primaries this year, so a third candidate, Chris Anglin (R), was also on the ballot as a Republican, despite switching his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican days before the filing deadline.  The makeup of the Court now shifts from a 4-3 majority for Democrats, to a 5-2 majority for Democrats.  The Carolina Journal has a good piece highlighting that each of the sitting Justices overwhelmingly rule alongside the majority of the court. Democrats swept the NC Court of Appeals races, including the election of John Arrowood, the State’s first person who is openly gay to win a statewide election.

Partisan election battle masks N.C. Supreme Court’s collegial character – Carolina Journal


Voters weighed in on six proposed Constitutional Amendments yesterday, choosing to support four and reject two.  Below are descriptions of each amendment and its fate at the ballot box.

Voter I.D. – Requires voters to present an, as of now, unspecified form or identification in order to vote.  Lawmakers previously passed Voter I.D. in statute, but the law was struck down.
PASS 55.51% - 44.49%

Capping the State Income Tax at 7% – Reduces the maximum allowable income tax rate from 10% to 7%.  The current tax rate is 5.499% and is schedule to drop to 5.25% in 2019.
PASS 57.37% - 42.63%

Victim’s Rights (Marsy’s Law) – Strengthens protections for victims of crime; to establish certain absolute basic rights for victims; and to ensure the enforcement of these rights. The Amendment would guarantee victims, beyond their current rights, the following:

  • To be treated with dignity and respect.
  • Reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of a proceeding, upon request.
  • To be present at any proceeding, upon request.
  • To be reasonably heard at additional kinds of court hearings.
  • Restitution in a reasonably timely manner, when ordered by the court.
  • Information about the crime, upon request.
  • To reasonably confer with the prosecutor.

PASS 62.11% - 37.89%

Right to Hunt & Fish – Constitutional amendment protecting the right of the people to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife.
PASS 57.13% - 42.87 %

Bipartisan State Board of Elections – Establishes a Bipartisan Board of Ethics and Elections Enforcement in the Constitution to administer ethics and elections law.  The current nine-member, recently restructured board, was recently struck down.  This Amendment establishes an eight-member board, with two members each nominated by the Majority and Minority leaders in both the House and Senate.
FAIL 38.35% - 61.65%

Judicial Appointments – Provides that the NCGA would select two or more finalists, after they are reviewed by a commission to determine if they are qualified, from which the Governor would make a selection to fill any judicial vacancies.  Currently the Governor fill vacancies to the judiciary with his own selections.  Under the Amendment, if the Governor does not appoint someone from the Legislature's approved list within 10 days, the Legislature elects someone to fill the vacancy.  The Governor also would not be able to veto a bill that recommends or selects someone to fill a judicial vacancy.
FAIL 33.1% - 66.9%%

Voter ID, three other amendments pass; power shift proposals defeated – WRAL

In addition to providing Government Affairs Services, the Nexsen Pruet Public Policy team provides attorneys and clients with a newsletter summarizing the week's activities and conveying the inner workings of the legislative process and state government in Raleigh during the legislative session. Please feel free to pass this along to your clients or other interested parties.  If you would like to receive the update in your inbox, please email to be added to the list.  If you are interested in learning more about how Nexsen Pruet can help you achieve your public policy goals and acquiring legislative representation in North Carolina or South Carolina, please reach out to Sandy Sands at or TJ Bugbee at