There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the U.S. presidential elections in 2020, but the statewide elections could prove to be equally consequential, particularly for UNC students. Every seat in the N.C. General Assembly is up for grabs this election cycle — and the outcome could fundamentally shift politics in North Carolina as we know it.
In 2018, Democrats broke the Republican super-majorities in both chambers of the state legislature, which was enough to shift the power dynamics in Raleigh. Since then, Republicans haven’t been able to overturn the governor’s vetoes without at least some support from their Democratic colleagues.
This year, however, Democrats have a chance to turn the General Assembly blue, especially since recently redrawn legislative maps eliminate much of the unconstitutional gerrymandering that North Carolina has become known for. Under the new maps, Democrats pose a legitimate threat to Republican incumbents throughout the state, giving them the best chance to flip the General Assembly since the GOP took over in 2010.
The General Assembly wields significant power over the UNC System, as well as the University itself. Beyond the obvious things such as determining the state budget, which affects funding for higher education and taxes, the General Assembly is responsible for directly appointing all 28 members of the UNC System Board of Governors, as well as four members of the UNC Board of Trustees. In the past decade, the BOG has become increasingly partisan and increasingly conservative under Republican control.
The BOG in particular enjoys an uncomfortably close relationship with the Republican-controlled General Assembly. A significant number of BOG members have donated thousands to the North Carolina Republican Party, as well as to the campaigns of Republican politicians such as U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore and N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger.Some members of the BOG once served in the General Assembly themselves.