Republicans won the majority in the General Assembly during the last election, and they're driving the conservative agenda they promised.
Cuts in education spending, social programs and unemployment benefits have all prompted protests. And the Senate’s surprise vote this week on a suite of new abortion regulations has landed North Carolina politics in the national spotlight.
David McLennan, a political science professor at William Peace University, expects the drama will attract more outside influence for the next election cycle.
“This national attention only serves to create more interest,” he said. “And interest equals money.”
McLennan also believes the GOP social and budget-cutting agenda motivates supporters and opponents.
“It is the sort of straw that breaks the camel's back, so we'll see a very competitive election cycle in 2014,” he said.
The abortion vote puts House Speaker Thom Tillis on the spot. The Republican is running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Kay Hagan.
“This is kind of that litmus test issue for him,” McLennan said. “If he votes in favor of it and allows it to come up on the House side and lets it go through, then he's going to position himself further right perhaps than he wants to. If it doesn't come up then he's open to attack from his right.”
McLennan says Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has more political cover on the abortion vote. McCrory said last year he won't support more restrictions and criticized the Senate's vote on the bill this week.
The omnibus bill, titled the Family, Faith and Freedom Protection Act, is headed to the House for a final vote. It could become law without the governor's signature.