By Rob Thompson
The results are in. North Carolinians turned out in record numbers to elect a new leaders. At the state level, Democrats made significant gains in the General Assembly, breaking the Republican super-majority in both chambers. In the state House, the Republican majority shrunk from 75-45 to 66-54 (pending a couple of potential recounts). In the Senate, the Republican majority decreased from 36-14 to 29-21. Nationally, Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans strengthened their hold on the Senate.
So what do these results mean? At the state-level, the most important change is the breaking of the Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate. Democrats will now have the ability to sustain a veto from Governor Cooper, which gives them more negotiating power on major pieces of legislation like the state budget. While it’s impossible to know whether Democrats will be successful in leveraging their new political position, we do know that expanding access to affordable health care will be at the top of their agenda. Relatedly, three solid Republican states, Nebraska, Idaho, and Utah, approved ballot measures yesterday to expand Medicaid, indicating that the issue is widely supported across urban, rural, and partisan lines.
Another significant development is the loss of key moderates in the House and Senate. In the Senate, Sen. Tamara Barringer (R-Wake) has been a champion on many children’s issues, but lost her seat in a redrawn district. Her strong voice will be missed. In the House, Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake), the senior budget writer, lost his seat as well. Rep. Dollar has been one of the most influential voices on health care policy since Republicans took the majority in 2010.
Senator Barringer and Rep. Dollar were just two of several Republicans who represent suburban districts that lost their seats. Democrats made their biggest gains in Mecklenburg and Wake suburbs, picking up a total of 6 House seats and 3 Senate seats in those counties alone. This election is a strong reflection of the deepening political and cultural divide that exists between rural and urban/suburban communities in our state.
Of the six constitutional amendments on the ballot, four were approved: the income tax cap, the voter id requirement, the victims’ rights amendment, and the right to hunt and fish. Two amendments were soundly defeated: changes to the composition of the state board of elections and ethics enforcement, and changes to the way judicial vacancies are filled.
Nationally, Democratic control of the House of Representatives means that there won’t be any realistic attempts to repeal the ACA or cut Medicaid, which is a relief following the health care battles over the past two years.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway, both statewide and nationally, is that one-party control is over. Moving forward, Republicans and Democrats will need to work together to make progress on the biggest issues facing our children, families, and communities. The Special Session on November 29 will be our first glimpse into whether they’ll actually be willing to do that.
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