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Republicans keep their control over N.C. General Assembly

 "Its been long, but I think we're really going to like the finish."
"Its been long, but I think we're really going to like the finish." The Chair of NCGOP Michael Whatley speaks at the NCGOP's election night party on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 as results are announced.

The Republican party is projected to keep their control over the N.C. General Assembly, according to unofficial results from the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

In the state Senate, the Republican majority now stands at 28 to the Democratic minority’s 22. In the state House, the number now stands at 69 to 51. 

Prior to the election, Republicans controlled 29 seats in the state Senate and 65 in the House.

“After all of the time and expense running election campaigns, the results suggest public policies are unlikely to change drastically over the next two years,” Mitch Kokai, senior policy analyst at the John Locke Foundation, said in an email.

The Republican Party first took over control of both chambers of the General Assembly after the 2010 election, ending over a century of Democratic control of at least one chamber. 

With that, they brought about changes like decreasing the number of judges in the state Court of Appeals from 15 to 12 in 2017, decreasing the individual income tax rate to 5.25 percent from 7.75 percent and privatizing parts of Medicaid in 2015. 

Despite controlling both chambers, Kokai said Republicans will still need help from the Democrats to override any potential veto from Gov. Roy Cooper, who is projected to win his second term as governor.

Joe Czabovsky, an assistant journalism professor at UNC, said the governor has some of his own autonomous executive abilities, but his duties are intertwined with the state legislature.

“Things like funding, if there are new rules or laws passed by the assembly, it's going to impact how that executive is going to carry out those new laws,” Czabovsky said. 

The competition for each legislative district varies across the state. For example, each of Orange County’s two N.C. House legislative districts had uncontested races — Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, Caswell for District 50, and Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, for District 56.

However, N.C. Senate District 9 was predicted to be one of the closet races, and it was — Republican Michael Lee is projected to win against Democrat Harper Peterson by 1.2 percentage points. 

Kokai said both parties tried to have candidates running in every legislative district — a signal to him that they deemed the control of the General Assembly was up for grabs.

“There are some seats that are pretty well entrenched for one party or the other,” Kokai said. “But if you have a wave election and you don't have someone running in that district, you can't win it.”

Jean Davison, a professor in the UNC School of Nursing and Orange County voter, said there is a lot at stake with this election.

“We’re at a point in our country where some major health crises are going on and we need a strong leader for that," Davidson said.

This is the first election after the state legislature redistricted via a court order in 2019.

One impactful change created by the Republican majority General Assembly was the creation of gerrymandered districts.

North Carolina became infamous for its gerrymandering, which courts said targeted Black voters with "surgical precision." The gerrymandered districts gave the party a super majority, Mac McCorkle, public policy professor at Duke and former Democratic political consultant, said.

“They've been fixed by the state courts to certain extent, but also Democrats have a lot of easy wins, and they win by bigger margins, and thus, their votes aren't as well spread out,” McCorkle said. “Some people call it wasted.”

These legislative super majorities were broken after the 2016 and 2018 elections. 

A Republican-controlled state legislature will now have to continue working with a Democratic governor on issues like health care, civil rights and the environment.

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"Senate leader Phil Berger’s decision to single out Cooper for congratulations might signal an increased interest in negotiating differences over the next two years,” Kokai said.


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