As most of the country is zeroed in on the results of the presidential election, let’s not forget the races closer to home.
There was a lot on the ballot on Tuesday. In addition to president, North Carolinians cast their votes for a slew of state officials this year — including governor, U.S. Senate, Council of State races and the N.C. General Assembly.
In the weeks leading up to Election Day, the polls looked promising. But ultimately, the outcome wasn't as blue as many had hoped — in fact, it was nearly the opposite. With Republicans winning a significant number of down-ballot races, it appears North Carolina politics will be as divided as ever, with several more years of gridlock sure to come.
As the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer editorial board wrote, “North Carolina didn’t get a blue wave. It got a red reminder.”
Sen. Thom Tillis is poised to win his reelection race, weakening Democrats’ chances of flipping the U.S. Senate. Meanwhile, unofficial results show Republicans leading in six of the 10 Council of State seats, as well as nearly all of the judicial seats.
There wasn’t much good news in the state legislature, either. After breaking the veto-proof supermajority in 2018, Democrats hoped to pick up some more seats in the N.C. General Assembly in 2020. While Democrats will add one member to the N.C. Senate, according to unofficial results, the GOP majority in the House is expected to increase by four.
The stakes were high this year. With these majorities, Republicans will be able to redraw congressional and legislative districts for the next decade based on new data from the 2020 census.
It may not be the result that many of us hoped for — but it’s not a total loss, either. Margins in both chambers still fall short of a veto-proof supermajority. And with Gov. Roy Cooper emerging victorious in his reelection campaign, future legislation will likely require at least some degree of bipartisan support.
Despite all of the bad, however, there was still some good news.
Democrats picked up two seats in Congress, giving them five of North Carolina’s 13 seats in the House, The Associated Press declared. Both wins occurred in districts that were redrawn last year in response to a gerrymandering lawsuit.
North Carolina saw record voter turnout, particularly among college students — youth turnout in early and mail-in voting more than doubled compared to 2016.
And Ricky Hurtado, an instructor at UNC and former Morehead-Cain scholar, is making history. He's likely to become the only Latinx member of the N.C. House of Representatives.
It's hard to believe this is a state that voted for former President Barack Obama in 2008. But North Carolina has a sordid history of voter suppression that continues to this day, through disinformation, voter intimidation and barriers to voting — disproportionately targeting minority voters, who typically vote blue.
Although we cannot change the outcome, it doesn't mean there is nothing left to be done. It may make our work harder, but it does not make it impossible. So don’t let this election be the extent of your efforts — instead, let it be the beginning.
We still have a lot to fight for: COVID-19 and the economy, Medicaid expansion, teacher pay, fair redistricting, racial justice. We can't afford to wait another four years, or even two.
It’s OK to be disappointed. Devastated, even. Feel what you need to feel, for as long as you need to feel it. And when you’re ready, get back in the fight. Keep organizing, protesting, fighting — our issues require a solution much bigger than electoral politics.
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