2 of 6 amendments fail; Democrat wins for Supreme Court
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 7, 2018
By Gary D. Robertson
RALEIGH — Once pegged as a low-thrill election cycle without major statewide races, North Carolina’s campaign season became a high-intensity fight over Republican governance in Raleigh and Washington, and whether Democrats deserve more power.
Record numbers voted early before Tuesday’s midterms, reflecting the energy and money injected into legislative, judicial and congressional races and ballot questions.
State Democrats raised mammoth sums of cash, buoyed by Gov. Roy Cooper’s call to “Break the Majority” of the GOP in both the House and Senate this decade. Appraisals of state Republican control stretched to a state Supreme Court race, where the Democrat won, and six referendums, two of which failed. Three GOP congressional seats were also threatened with close races, although Republicans held onto at least two of those.
Democrats fell short of winning the 16 additional House seats and 11 more Senate seats overall to retake majorities for the first time since 2010.
But state Democratic Party Chair Wayne Goodwin said in a release the party still reached its goal of “breaking the Republican supermajority and electing a legislature that will work with Gov. Cooper to invest more in education, expand access to affordable health care and support working families.”
In addition to the photo ID requirement, a majority of voters approved constitutional referendums on hunting and fishing rights, expanding crime victims’ rights and lowering the current income tax rate cap from 10 percent to 7 percent.
House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger gave their own take on Tuesday’s outcomes, saying that with continued GOP majorities, voters “issued a clear mandate to continue Republican policies that are benefiting the workforce, improving schools, and delivering a pro-jobs agenda for families.”
Paul Seaton, 37, an unaffiliated voter from Raleigh, said he voted Tuesday for all Democrats to serve as a counterweight to Republicans in the federal and state government.
“I guess my only reason that I voted for all Democrats was just a balance, that there needed to be a little more balance to the extreme on the other side in some cases,” said Seaton, a community college student.
Seaton said Republicans also didn’t get his votes because they put on the ballot a constitutional amendment that if approved would mandate voters having to show a photo identification to vote in person.
Anne Jenkins, 61, a Raleigh nurse, said Tuesday she voted for Republicans as well as the amendments.
“I feel like the Republicans supported them and the Democrats didn’t, and I didn’t have any problem with the amendments,” Jenkins said. “I saw nothing wrong with any of them.”
In other races, Anita Earls was elected to unseat Justice Barbara Jackson. Earls’ victory means Democrats now will hold five of the seven seats on the court.
Voters said no Tuesday to two amendments shifting power to legislators from the governor, while an amendment requiring a photo ID to vote and three others passed.
The other amendments that passed lower the cap on income tax rates; expand crime victims’ rights and enshrine the right to hunt and fish.
The six amendments Republican lawmakers submitted to voters filled the vacuum of having no races for governor or U.S. Senate. Groups for or against the amendments raised well over $20 million, according to campaign finance reports.
Cooper, the Democratic Party and allied groups pushed to defeat all six. The state GOP supported all six, but former Republican governors and the conservative Americans for Prosperity have come out against one or two individual amendments.
Voters elected Democrat Anita Earls to the state Supreme Court, unseating the Republican incumbent.
Earls, a longtime civil rights attorney from Durham, raised record campaign money and garnered national attention as she defeated Republican incumbent Justice Barbara Jackson.
Jackson was seeking a second eight-year term but got waylaid by the late entry of another registered Republican, Raleigh attorney Chris Anglin. He had been a registered Democrat until just before he filed. Democrats now hold five of the seven Supreme Court seats.
Republicans hold a 10-3 seat advantage in the state’s congressional delegation.
The most likely district to flip would be in the south-central 9th District anchored by Charlotte, where Democrat Dan McCready has outraised Republican Mark Harris, who upset current Rep. Robert Pittenger in the GOP primary in May.
In the 13th District, covering parts of Greensboro and points west to Iredell County, first-term Republican Rep. Ted Budd was able to fend off a challenge by Kathy Manning. In the Raleigh-area 2nd District, three-term GOP Rep. George Holding retained his seat over Democrat Linda Coleman.
And nearly complete results showed Republican Mark Harris with a razor-thin lead over Democrat Dan McCready in the 9th District. A recount was possible. Should Harris win, Republicans would continue to hold 10 of the state’s 13 House seats.
Nine other incumbents won, while 3rd District Rep. Walter Jones Jr. faced no ballot opposition.
Early in-person voting levels smashed the previous record high for midterms in 2014 with several days to spare in this year’s 18-day period. But it’s unclear how much front-loaded voting will translate to higher overall turnout when all mail-absentee ballots and those cast Tuesday in 2,700 precincts statewide are counted.
The state elections board counted 1.97 million people voting at early-voting sites statewide before they closed Saturday, compared to 1.1 million in 2014, when 10 days of early voting occurred.
Overall 2014 election turnout was 44 percent, or 2.9 million voters. There are now nearly 7.1 million registered voters.