Concrete things you can do to fix NC politics

HI! I just posted an update to this, which you can read here.

Say you wanted to do something about actually changing NC politics, apart from all the typing you’re doing on social media. What are your options?

EDIT(s) based on ppl’s comments:

  • I wrote a TL;DR for this, in case you get halfway through this & feel overwhelmed.
  • This post assumes that you are already highly educated about the races in your area. If not, FIX THAT. City councils matter. County boards of commissioners matter. School board races matter. One resource for unbiased candidate info is the League of Women Voters. If you live in the Triangle, the Indy does a great job (even if they endorsed the wrong presidential candidate this year). If you live in Durham, the People’s Alliance takes its endorsement process very seriously.

Donate to, or volunteer with, progressive organizations

Here’s a list of organizations doing good & important work, work that will hopefully help shift NC politics in a more positive direction come November. There are only seven groups on this list, so you can take the 10-15 minutes necessary to click and read about them.

Donate to, or volunteer for, statewide candidates

These are all solid candidates, even Roy Cooper, who as Attorney General has stood up to Pat McCrory and the NC legislature in refusing to enforce or defend extremist and unconstitutional laws on multiple occasions, even though he knew it would result in negative campaigning against him. (I didn’t vote for him in the primary because he jumped on the “no Syrian refugees to NC” bandwagon, but he’s still 10000000x better than Pat McCrory)

There’s no way to recover Democratic control of either branch of the state legislature this year, so having a strong set of executive-branch folks will be crucial in mitigating the damage that the legislature is likely to continue to do. And getting rid of Senator Richard Burr would be outstanding, to boot.

  • June Atkinson for State Superintendent of Public Instruction
    June Atkinson has been NC schools superintendent since 2005; she won her most recent election in 2012 with 54.2% of the vote.
  • Linda Coleman for Lieutenant Governor
    Last time Linda Coleman faced Dan Forest, in the 2012 Lt. Gov race, he only won 50.1% to 49.9%, or under 7000 votes. We can take this one!
  • Roy Cooper for Governor
    Any one of the stuffed animals at the TROSA Thrift Store would make a better governor than Pat McCrory, so this is a no-brainer no matter what. The fact is that Roy has been a good Attorney General, and has been remarkable in his willingness to shirk his nominal “official duty” when it comes to defending laws that are patently unconstitutional.
  • Dan Blue III for Treasurer
    Democrat Janet Cowell has been our treasurer for two terms, but she’s not seeking reelection. Democrat Dan Blue III, the son of one of the most powerful (and popular) NC legislators, is running. He has a background in law and finance, although he obviously grew up steeped in NC politics as well. Cowell won her last election with 53.8% of the vote.
  • Elaine Marshall for Secretary of State
    Elaine Marshall has been the NC Secretary of State since 1996. She won in 2012 (when McCrory was elected governor) with 53.8% of the vote, which is hardly a landslide, but still impressive, considering.
  • Charles Meeker for Commissioner of Labor
    Meeker was the hugely popular mayor of Raleigh, but can he overcome Cherie K Berry’s unfair photo-based advantage?
  • Deborah Ross for US Senate
    Deborah Ross is currently polling behind Richard Burr, but she’s not out of the running. This is a key race where donations & volunteering could help.
  • Josh Stein for Attorney General
    In the primary, there were more votes cast for Josh than for his Republican opponent (and more for the Democrats than the Republicans overall), but it was a tight margin. Again, this is winnable, but it will take work.
  • Beth Wood for State Auditor
    Beth Wood is seeking her third term as state Auditor. She has held the job since 2009. She won reelection in 2012 with over 53% over the vote.

Donate to, or volunteer for, NC state legislature candidates

Here’s where it gets interesting. In the NC State House, Republicans have a veto-proof supermajority (60% of members are required to override a veto; the Republicans currently hold 75 seats, with Democrats holding 45, giving them 62.5%), but they only need to lose 4 seats in order to lose that supermajority.

Likewise, in the NC Senate, Republicans currently hold 33 of 50 seats (Democrats hold 15, and 2 are vacant). Republicans would only need to lose 4 of those 33 in order to lose their supermajority.

Thanks to the extremely partisan gerrymandering of NC legislative districts, only 46 NC House districts are actually contested this November, although all 120 seats are elected every time. Likewise in the Senate, only 32 of the 50 seats are actually contested.

Among those seats that are even contested, only perhaps 1/3 of them are even remotely competitive. Nevertheless, if Democrats can win all or most of those, those 4 necessary seats in the House & the Senate could be obtained. We’re highly unlikely to flip control of either body, but securing the veto for a Democratic governor would be a huge step forward.

A few notes: pretty much all of these candidates are running on a platform of improving education in NC. Some of them, particularly in coastal & mountain areas, are also pretty actively pro-environmental causes. Some of them have Lillian’s List endorsements, which means they’re women who are on the record as being strongly pro-choice (and whom Lillian’s List has decided have a chance at winning). I have noted those.

It is much harder to get a reading on their positions re: HB2. Those in more urban districts are far more likely to have made public statements in opposition to HB2. Some others have made slightly vaguer statements about legislative overreach. It can be hard to run as a Democrat in a rural district in NC.

You’ll have to make your own decisions about whether to support rural Democrats who haven’t made anti-HB2 statements. I wish I could say that they’d vote in a bloc with Democrats once elected, but the HB2 vote itself taught us that we can’t rely on that, with 11 Democrats voting for it. Nearly all of those were men over the age of 60 in safe districts with no Republican opposition. Maybe that’s a template for whom to avoid this time around.

Likely NC State House candidates

So where do we start? Let’s begin with Democratic candidates in potentially winnable districts that are currently held by Republicans, since that’s where the most potential impact is:

  • District 2: Joe Parrish
    This seat that covers Roxboro & Creedmoor was held by Democrats until 2014, when it flipped to Republican, with current incumbent Larry Yarborough taking 56.7% of the vote. Joe Parrish is strongly opposed to HB2, and has a shot at returning this seat to Democratic control.
  • District 6: Warren Judge
    This is the seat currently held by Paul Tine, elected as a Democrat, now an “unaffiliated” who caucuses with the Republicans. Tine won this seat with 53.6% of the vote. Tine isn’t running for reelection, which makes this an excellent chance to retain this seat for a [hopefully] actual real Democrat. This district covers the Outer Banks and Belhaven. I have not been able to find a public statement from Warren Judge regarding HB2.
  • District 9: Brian Farkas
    This one is interesting — this seat only went Republican by 51.5% in 2012. It was 60/40 in 2014, probably because the Democrat was a [really awesome] college student named Uriah Ward who looked like he was 16 years old. Brian may actually have a real chance, much moreso than Uriah did. I can’t find any policy statement from Brian about HB2. He has come out strongly in favor of non-partisan redistricting, however.
  • District 35: Terence Everitt
    This is the seat in northern Wake County that covers Rolesville & parts of Wake Forest. Republican incumbent Chris Malone won his 2014 race with 56% of the vote. I reached out to Terence to ask for a statement on HB2, and I got a private response from his campaign manager, offering to let me talk to Terence on the phone. No public statement was offered. I didn’t call him.
  • District 36: Jen Ferrell
    This is the Apex/Cary seat currently held by Republican Nelson Dollar, who got 54% of the vote in 2014. Democrat Jen Ferrell is enthusiastic and media-savvy, and is a very strong opponent of HB2. This seat is a must-win.
  • District 40: Joe John
    This is the northwestern Wake County seat currently held by Republican Marilyn Avila, who took 54.3% of the vote in 2014. Her challenger, Joe John, has been silent on social media since just before HB2 was passed, so I don’t know his position. It would be great to see all of Wake go Democratic this year, however.
  • District 49: Cynthia Ball
    This is one of the core Raleigh seats in the NC House. Republican incumbent Gary Pendleton only won it with 51.6% of the vote in 2014. Cynthia Ball is endorsed by Lillian’s List, and has expressed her opposition to HB2.
  • District 53: Jon Blum
    This district covers the portion of Harnett County that includes Angier, Dunn & Erwin. Republican incumbent David Lewis took 55.7% of the vote in 2014. His challenger Jon Blum is strongly opposed to HB2.
  • District 88: Mary Belk
    This is one of the Mecklenburg County/Charlotte metro area seats. Republican incumbent Rob Bryan took 55.4% of the vote in 2014. Democrat Mary Belk has expressed some opposition to HB2.
  • District 92: Chaz Beasley
    This is a super-thin slice on the far western edge of Mecklenburg county. Chaz Beasley is strongly opposed to HB2, and is a strong campaigner. Republican incumbent Charles Jeter only took 52.5% of the vote in 2014.
  • District 93: Sue Counts
    This district includes Boone, but is nonetheless in Republican control. This is a rematch of the 2014 election, in which Republican incumbent Jonathan Jordan took 53% of the vote. Sue Counts should have more name recognition this time around. She is strongly opposed to HB2.
  • District 118: Rhonda Cole Schandevel
    This is a district in far western NC, including Maggie Valley. Republican incumbent Michele Presnell only took 51.3% of the vote in both 2012 and 2014. Rhonda Cole Schandevel is a pro-choice progressive Democrat supported by Lillian’s List, although I’m unable to find any statement from her regarding HB2.

Next, let’s look at current House Democrats in tight reelection races. If we don’t win these, we lose ground:

  • District 41: Gale Adcock
    Gale represents parts of western Wake County. She flipped this district from Republican to Democrat in 2014, taking 51.3% of the vote. She was absent when the House voted on HB2 and I have been unable to find a statement from her regarding it. She was a Lillian’s List candidate in 2014, so I know she is progressive and pro-choice, but I don’t know her definitive stance on HB2.
  • District 44: Billy Richardson
    Billy represents Fayetteville, and is one of the 11 House Democrats who voted for HB2. But he has subsequently apologized for that, in a meaningful way. He won his last race, in 2014, with 52.5% of the vote.
  • District 54: Robert Reives
    Robert represents Chatham county in the NC House, along with just enough of Lee county to cover his home in Sanford. He won his 2014 election with 56% of the vote. Despite that fairly close margin, he voted against HB2.
  • District 115: John Ager
    John represents parts of Buncombe County. He flipped his district from Republican to Democrat in 2014, but he only took 50.8% of the vote. He voted against HB2.
  • District 116: Brian Turner
    Brian is our other Buncombe County success story from 2014, when he successfully flipped his district from Republican to Democrat. He took 52% of the vote in 2014. He voted against HB2.
  • District 119: Joe Sam Queen
    Joe Sam Queen is from Waynesville & represents parts of far Western NC. He didn’t travel to Raleigh for the special session, but spoke out against HB2. He won his most recent election in 2014 with 52.6% of the vote.

And one open seat currently held by a Democrat who isn’t running for reelection:

  • District 46: Tim Benton
    This seat went to the Democrat with 53.4% of the vote in 2014, and 54% of the vote in 2012. It represents all or part of Bladen, Columbus & Robeson counties. Democrat Tim Benton hasn’t made any public statements about HB2.

Here’s a list of other current House Democrats whose races aren’t quite as close, but are still contested:

  • District 7: Bobbie Richardson
    Bobbie was unopposed in 2012 and 2014. She’s opposed now, but this seat is comparatively safe. Bobbie voted against HB2.
  • District 11: Duane Hall
    Duane is a Wake County representative who voted against HB2. He won his 2014 election with 61.5% of the vote.
  • District 18: Susi Hamilton
    Susi is from Wilmington. She voted against HB2. She won her 2014 election with 66.5% of the vote.
  • District 30: Paul Luebke
    Paul Luebke has represented Durham for something like 18 years. He was unopposed in 2012 and 2014. He was absent from the HB2 vote, but he is a progressive Democrat.
  • District 34: Grier Martin
    Grier Martin represents portions of Raleigh in the NC House. He was unopposed in 2012 and 2014. He voted against HB2.
  • District 50: Graig Meyer
    Graig Meyer represents Orange & parts of Durham county. He voted against HB2. He won his 2014 election with 57% of the vote, which is lower than I would have expected. It might be worth shooting some dollars his way, for insurance.
  • District 101: Beverly Earle
    Beverly Earle represents a big chunk of Charlotte in the NC House. She was absent during the vote on HB2, and I have been unable to find a statement from her. She was on Lillian’s List in the past, so I know she is a progressive and pro-choice, but I don’t know her exact stance on HB2. She was unopposed in 2012 and 2014.

Conspicuously absent from that list is Brad Salmon, of District 51. Brad flipped his district from Republican to Democrat in 2014, in a closely-watched race. But he was one of the 11 turncoat Democrats who voted FOR HB2. He hasn’t made a public statement about that since so doing. As far as I’m concerned, he’s no different than the Republican he replaced.

So what about the other 19 contested NC House seats? They are a mix of seats where Republicans haven’t been opposed in the previous two elections (meaning I don’t have data because I’m lazy & just use Ballotpedia for my data), and ones which Republicans have previously won by LARGE margins. In some cases their Democratic challengers lack support from the party, or are in need of organizational assistance (if I can’t find any web presence, that’s generally a bad sign). If you have a lot of time on your hands, these folks could use your help — but any wins from this list would be a welcome (highly unlikely) surprise.

The biggest heartbreaker on that list is Jonathan Graham in District 37, which covers Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, and parts of Graham & Apex. It’s the seat currently held by Paul “Skip” Stam, the evil Wake County Republican. He’s retiring, which gives Wake County Democrats their best chance in a while to flip this seat. But Jonathan Graham currently has no visible campaign infrastructure, only a personal Facebook page (with literally 6 friends, including me). He’s strongly opposed to HB2, but he’s also strongly opposed to (for example) yard signs with his name on them. Sigh.

Likely NC Senate candidates

Don’t worry, the Senate is a smaller body, so this is necessarily a shorter list. Remember, Democrats need a net gain of 4 seats here as well, in order to remove the Republican supermajority & secure veto power for the governor (who had better NOT be Pat McCrory).

Again, let’s begin with Democratic candidates in potentially winnable districts that are currently held by Republicans:

  • District 1: Brownie Futtrell
    This district includes the Outer Banks and several sound-front counties behind them. Republican incumbent Bill Cook took 53.5% of the vote in 2014. This district was Democratic up until 2012, when it flipped by a margin of literally 21 votes. Brutal. Democrat Brownie Futtrell has a lot of posts on his Facebook page about his Senior Games pool & ping-pong wins, but nothing about HB2.
  • District 9: Andrew Barnhill
    This district covers all of New Hanover county, which includes Wilmington & Wrightsville Beach. But it still went Republican with 55.4% of the vote in 2014 (though only 54.2% in 2012). Democrat Andrew Barnhill has stated his opposition to HB2.
  • District 12: Susan Byerly
    This district covers Harnett, Johnston & Lee counties, aka several rural counties that immediately border the core Triangle counties. Democrat Susan Byerly ran for an NC House seat in 2014 but lost 56/44, which is the same margin by which this district went for Republican Ronald Rabin in 2014. I can’t find any public statement by Susan Byerly re: HB2.
  • District 15: Laurel Deegan-Fricke
    District 15 is one of the Wake County districts, covering the northwest 1/4 of the county, including parts of Raleigh & most of Wake Forest. Republican incumbent John Alexander only took the district with 50.4% of the vote in 2014. Democrat Laurel Deegan-Fricke has a real chance. She is also opposed to HB2.
  • District 17: Susan Evans
    This district covers southern Wake, including Holly Springs, Apex, and Fuquay-Varina. It went for Republican Tamara Barringer with 58.5% in 2014, but only 53.7% in 2012. So it’s perhaps more in-play than it first appears. Democrat Susan Evans is supported by Lillian’s List, and has stated her opposition to HB2.
  • District 18: Gil Johnson
    This district covers the far east/northeast portion of Wake, as well as all of Franklin county. Republican incumbent Chad Barefoot only took in 52.9% of the vote in 2014. Democrat Gil Johnson has not made any public statement about HB2 that I can find.
  • District 19: Toni Morris
    This district is one of two that divide Fayetteville like a jigsaw puzzle. That map is one of the most embarrassing examples of gerrymandering in NC. (The other Fayetteville district is safely Democratic, with no Republican opposition in 2012 or 2014.) Nevertheless, Republican incumbent Wesley Meredith only held this district with 54.4% of the vote in 2014, so a flip is a possibility. Democrat Toni Morris is opposed to HB2.
  • District 25: Dannie Montgomery
    This district covers a big chunk of rural southern NC. It was Democratic in 2012 (53/47) but flipped to the Republican side in 2014. Republican Tom McInnis only drew 50.4% of the vote. There was a Libertarian candidate in 2014 who drew 2.5% of the vote, apparently largely from the Democratic side. This is a key opportunity to flip this seat back. Democrat Dannie Montgomery hasn’t made any statements on social media since February, before HB2 passed, so I don’t know her position on HB2.
  • District 27: Michael Garrett
    This district covers eastern & southern Guilford county, in sort of a half-donut around Greensboro. Republican incumbent Trudy Wade was unopposed in 2014, but she only took 57.6% of the vote in 2012, so this one is a possible win. Democrat Michael Garrett is opposed to HB2.
  • District 39: Lloyd Scher
    This district is currently represented by Republican Bob Rucho, who took 55.2% of the vote in 2014. He’s retiring; the Republican running to replace him is the vile Dan Bishop, co-sponsor of HB2. This is a Mecklenburg County district, so I guess we’ll see which side of the Charlotte electorate is more motivated this year. Lloyd Scher is strongly opposed to HB2.
  • District 48: Norman Bossert
    This is one of two NC Senate seats that covers part of Asheville. It is currently held by Republican Tom Apodaca, who took 57.4% of the vote in 2014. My friends from out west *really* dislike him. He’s retiring, so there will be no incumbent running. Democrat Norm Bossert is strongly opposed to HB2.
  • District 50: Jane Hipps
    This is the district that covers far western NC, including Murphy, Highlands, Cashiers. This is the second time that Democrat Jane Hipps has run against Republican incumbent Jim Davis; in 2014, he beat her 53.9/46.1. Jane is endorsed by Lillian’s List, but as of now she hasn’t made a public statement about HB2.

I can’t give you a list of current Senate Democrats in tight reelection races, because there aren’t any. The candidate with the narrowest margin in the 2014 election was Gladys Robinson in district 28, who won that race 59.4/40.6. She could definitely use your support, if you have it to give.

Here are the other Senate Democrats up for reelection this cycle:

  • District 4: Angela Bryant
    Angela represents Rocky Mount & parts of Wilson. She won her seat in 2014 with 65.5% of the vote. During the HB2 vote, she walked out of the senate along with the entire NC Democratic Senate Caucus.
  • District 13: Jane Smith
    Jane represents Columbus & Robeson counties. She won her 2014 election with 62.8% of the vote. I asked her on Twitter what her position was on HB2, and she said that she was upset with the provisions that had been inserted into it. I couldn’t get her to elaborate on that. As of this writing, her website is down.
  • District 21: Ben Clark
    This is the crazily gerrymandered district that covers the other half of Fayetteville. Ben was unopposed in his 2012 and 2014 races; that’s how gerrymandered the district is. He’s strongly opposed to HB2.
  • District 22: Mike Woodard
    Mike Woodard was a Durham city councilman before running for this senate seat. He won his 2014 race with 67.1% of the vote. His Republican opponent this time is T. Greg Doucette, a defense attorney who has had some great things to say about bias in policing. Oddly, Greg hasn’t had anything to say about HB2, whereas Mike Woodard is strongly opposed.
  • District 23: Valerie Foushee
    This is the Orange + Chatham seat formerly occupied by Ellie Kinnaird, so it’s sort of the epitome of a safe seat. Valerie won her 2014 race with 68.2% of the vote; her 2016 challenger, Mary Lopez-Carter, was also her 2014 opponent. Valerie is strongly opposed to HB2.
  • District 37: Jeff Jackson
    Jeff Jackson represents a big chunk of downtown Charlotte, plus a stripe of Mecklenburg running south towards the SC border. Jeff is one of the most articulate & astute NC politicians. I highly recommend following him on Facebook or Twitter. He ran unopposed in 2014, and won his 2012 race with 67% of the vote. He’s strongly opposed to HB2.
  • District 38: Joel Ford
    Joel Ford represents the northwest half of Charlotte; he won his race in 2014 with 79.7% of the vote. He faces the same challenger, Richard Rivette, this year. Joel is opposed to HB2.
  • District 40: Joyce Waddell
    Joyce represents northeastern Charlotte & Mecklenburg county; she was unopposed in 2014, and won 84.1% of the vote in 2012. She walked out of the HB2 vote along with the rest of the NC Democratic Senate Caucus. I haven’t seen a public statement from her since then.

So what about the other 10 contested NC Senate seats? They are a mix of seats where Republicans haven’t been opposed in the previous two elections, and ones which Republicans have previously won by LARGE margins. In some cases their Democratic challengers lack support from the party, or are in need of organizational assistance (if I can’t find any web presence, that’s generally a bad sign). If you have a lot of time on your hands, these folks could use your help — but any wins from this list would be a welcome (highly unlikely) surprise.

There are no Republican incumbents running in 11, 33, 36 and 45. Of those, only Art Sherwood has any sort of web presence. Of the folks who *do* have some kind of web presence, John Thorpe, Michael Garrett, Michael Holleman, Art Sherwood *and* Anne Fischer are strongly opposed to HB2. Of those, Anne Fischer probably has the best chance.

OK. That’s it for this post, all 3700 words of it. I hadn’t intended to spend so much time on this — but I feel like I know a lot more about NC politics now than I did when I started it a few weeks ago. If you have read this far, I hope you learned something as well.

And I really hope you’ll invest some time, money, or both in assisting these candidates. The pressure being put on NC from all directions, as a result of HB2, is a potentially huge chance to flip some seats that wouldn’t have even been considered in play 2 years ago. Let’s get some benefit from this awful situation.

Concrete things you can do to fix NC politics

7 thoughts on “Concrete things you can do to fix NC politics

  1. melanie says:

    I would just remind your readers that all the down ticket seats matter too. It’s never been more important that you vote in every single race that you can. In Wake County our school board is up for grabs again and we have two new wake county commissioner seats we must win. Check out Vicki4wake.com for one of them. There will be judges too. We must vote in every race. We must show up. We must get others to show up.

  2. Mike says:

    Don’t forget that we have a primary June 7 for the pivotal seat on the NC Supreme Ct. The top 2 (of 4) in the primary advance to Nov. The GOP has a 4-3 majority that has managed to defend every bad law the GA has passed (only to be reversed by Federal cts). The GOP seat-warmer has to be defeated. Wake Superior Ct Judge Mike Morgan has an excellent reputation after 20+ years on the bench. Make him Justice Morgan.

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