North Carolina 2018 Mid-Term “Blue Moon” Election Wrap-Up

This year, North Carolina had a “blue moon” election in which there were no statewide races on the ballot aside from judicial contests. Blue moon elections occur every twelve years (the last was 2006) and historically produce low voter turnout because there is no U.S. Senate or governor’s race at the top of the ticket to drive voters to the polls.

The 2018 election was not a normal blue moon election with turnout even exceeding an ordinary mid-term election. Approximately 3.7 million people out of the state’s seven million registered voters cast their ballot this mid-term election, or 52 percent of the electorate, as compared to the 2.9 million voters (44 percent) in the 2014 mid-term election.

Below is an overview of the official but preliminary state election results. For a complete list of election results, visit the N.C. State Board of Elections website.

N.C. Congressional Races

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are elected every two years. While overall control of the U.S. House flipped from Republican to Democrat, only three of North Carolina’s 13 U.S. House districts were competitive in 2018. Republican candidates prevailed in those three races, however, Democratic candidate Dan McCready has yet to concede in House District 9 and is eligible for a recount.

  • House District 2 – Incumbent George Holding (R) vs. Linda Coleman (D) (51% to 46%)
  • House District 9 – Mark Harris (R) vs. Dan McCready (D) (49.4% to 48.77%)
  • House District 13 – Incumbent Ted Budd (R) vs. Kathy Manning (D) (52% to 46%)

N.C. General Assembly

Republicans have enjoyed a veto-proof supermajority in both the N.C. House and Senate since 2013. Democrats sought to break the supermajority in 2018 to gain greater influence in setting the legislative agenda and allow Gov. Roy Cooper a seat at the negotiating table. Democrats succeeded in their goal of breaking the supermajorities in both chambers, but Republicans prevailed in retaining their majorities.

The loss of a veto-proof supermajority means that Republican legislative leaders will have to work with Gov. Cooper when developing the state budget and enacting legislation during the upcoming 2019-2020 biennium. The governor’s veto power and the ability to sustain a veto grants the governor more leverage to block the enactment of new legislation or negotiate a compromise. With a seat at the table, Gov. Cooper is in a position to more aggressively promote his legislative priorities such as Medicaid expansion and increasing teacher salaries.

North Carolina House

House Republicans had a supermajority of 75-45 heading into the 2018 mid-term election. Democrats achieved a net gain of nine seats, successfully breaking the supermajority and reducing the Republicans’ majority to 66-54. Three House races – Reps. Brawley (R-Mecklenburg), Bradford (R-Mecklenburg) and Ross (R-Alamance) – are within one percent, qualifying them for a recount. Irrespective of the outcome of those potential recounts, House Republicans will no longer have enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto.

Notable Incumbents Defeated

Rep. Nelson Dollar (R) of Wake County lost a closely watched race to Julie von Haefen, garnering only 47 percent of the vote. Dollar is the chief budget writer in the House and has been influential in writing health care policy since Republicans took the majority in 2011. Other House incumbents defeated include: Reps. John Adcock (R) and Chris Malone (R) of Wake County; Reps. John Bradford (R), Andy Dulin (R) and Scott Stone (R) of Mecklenburg County; Rep. Jonathan Jordan (R) of Ashe County; Rep. Mike Clampitt (R) of Swain County; Rep. George Graham (D) of Lenoir County; and Rep. Bobbie Richardson (D) of Franklin County.

North Carolina Senate

Similar to the N.C. House, the N.C. Senate held a Republican supermajority of 35-15 heading into Tuesday’s election. Republicans retain control of the Senate with a 29-21 majority for the 2019-2020 biennium yet no longer hold a supermajority. Sen. Michael Lee in New Hanover County is trailing by less than 50 votes and therefore qualifies for a recount.

Notable Incumbents Defeated

Five Republican senators lost in their re-election efforts: Sen. Tamara Barringer of Wake County; Sen. Michael Lee of New Hanover County; Sen. Wesley Meredith of Cumberland County; Sen. Jeff Tarte of Mecklenburg County; and Sen. Trudy Wade of Guilford County.

Observations

This was the first election in which nearly every state legislative seat had a challenger, forcing both parties to raise significant funds to support candidates in every district. As of the Oct. 20 filing deadline, the state Democratic Party raised $14 million during the two-year cycle and the Republican Party, along with the Senate-related fundraising organization, raised $12 million. In comparison, the Democratic Party raised $4.4 million through the third quarter of the 2014 midterm election and the NCGOP raised $7.1 million. Those fundraising totals do not account for money spent by candidate campaigns and outside groups, such as Political Action Committees, dark money and special interests. The fundraising success of Democrats, aided by Gov. Cooper, provided a significant boost for Democratic legislative candidates this election.

Election results further grow the rural-urban divide that has existed on the state and national levels. Wake (Raleigh) and Mecklenburg (Charlotte) Counties will now be represented by only three Republican legislators in the General Assembly.

Judicial Elections

One N.C. Supreme Court seat was up for election in 2018. Anita Earls (D) successfully defeated incumbent Barbara Jackson (R) and challenger Chris Anglin (R). The state legislature eliminated judicial primaries this year to allow more time for judicial reform, which resulted in two Republican candidates on the ballot. The seating of Earls gives Democrats a 5-2 majority on the state’s highest court.

Three of the 15 N.C. Court of Appeals seats were up for election:

Seat 1

John S. Arrowood (D) defeated Andrew T. Heath (R)

Seat 2

Tobias (Toby) Hampson (D) defeated Jefferson G. Griffin (R) and Sandra Alice Ray (R)

Seat 3

Allegra Katherine Collins (D) defeated Chuck Kitchen (R) and Michael Monaco, Sr. (L)

Constitutional Amendments

The ballot contained six constitutional amendment referendums. Four of the six amendment proposals passed with more than 50% of the vote. The two failed amendments shifted power from the Executive Branch to the Legislative Branch.

Pass

  • Right to Hunt and Fish (57% approve)
  • Changes to Current Victims’ Rights / Marsy’s Law (62% approve)
  • Cap Maximum State Income Tax at 7% (57% approve)
  • Require Photographic Identification to Vote (56% approve)

Fail

  • Legislature to Control Judicial Appointments (66% disapprove)
  • Party Leaders in Legislature to Control Ethics and Elections Board Appointments; Eliminate Nonpartisan Representation on Board (62% disapprove)

November Special Session

The General Assembly will reconvene for a special session on November 27th to address hurricane recovery needs and pass legislation to implement the approved constitutional amendments. The legislature may also consider other Republican leadership priorities given it will be the last time the Republican veto-proof supermajorities meet before the 2019-2020 biennium.

The General Assembly will reconvene Tuesday, Nov. 27 at noon.

This post was provided by Smith, Anderson, Blount, Dorsett, Mitchell & Jernigan, LLP.