Just a few seats could shift balance of power in NC
Posted September 12
Updated September 13
Raleigh, N.C. — From House Bill 2 to the federal court's scolding of the Republican-led legislature over the voter ID law, voters statewide have expressed dissatisfaction with state lawmakers' work during the last session. Throw Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump into the mix, and there are plenty of reasons to bring voters to the polls in November.
While the presidential and gubernatorial races get lots of airtime and arguments on Facebook, it is members of the General Assembly who have the most direct impact on life and law in North Carolina. Will voters take out their frustrations on incumbents or return the Republicans to their super-majorities in the House ands the Senate?
The current makeup of the House has 74 Republicans, 45 Democrats and one unaffiliated lawmaker. On the Senate side, the Republican dominance is even bigger. The GOP holds more than double the number of seats Democrats do.
Most experts find it far-fetched to expect a flip in the balance of power, but a slight shift in the House and a gubernatorial victory by Democrat Roy Cooper would be enough to change the power dynamic in Raleigh.
A loss of just four seats in the House could pull Republicans below the three-fifths majority needed to override a gubernatorial veto, and that's a scenario that Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, thinks is a real possibility.
"Republicans have had the power to do pretty much what they wanted to do so far. A governor who can sustain a veto? That changes everything," said Republican strategist Carter Wrenn.
"You'll have a situation where Republicans pass something, Cooper vetoes it, Democrats sustain the veto. It keeps a lot of things from going into law," Jensen said.
Wrenn, a consultant for Republican campaigns in the state, said Trump's unfavorable numbers among suburban independents could cost Republican legislators their seats.
"In urban and suburban areas, Hillary (Clinton) is running stronger than Trump, unusually strong for a Democrat," Wrenn said, noting that independent voters who supported Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012 may shift away from Trump.
Jensen agrees that Trump could serve as a drag on down-ballot Republicans.
"In the suburban areas of Raleigh and Charlotte, Donald Trump really hurts the Republican ticket. These are places that Mitt Romney won by 5 or 10 points in 2012. This time around we're seeing that Hillary Clinton's up by 5 or 10 points," he said.