Democrats break veto-proof majority in General Assembly

Democrats break the GOP super-majority in the House, and it looks like in the Senate, too

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Travis Fain
, WRAL statehouse reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Democrats broke the Republican super-majority in both the state House and state Senate Tuesday night, though some of the races are tight enough to trigger recounts.

Provisional ballots and late-arriving absentees are also yet to be counted, and the results remain unofficial.

The results left no doubt in the House, but the battle was tighter in the Senate. Breaking the super-majority in just one chamber is enough to shift the power dynamics in Raleigh.

Come next year, Republicans won't be able to overturn Gov. Roy Cooper's vetoes without at least some Democratic support. The GOP will still hold comfortable majorities in the two chambers, though.

"By breaking the Republican super-majorities in both chambers of the legislature and by overwhelmingly rejecting the power-grabbing constitutional amendments, North Carolinians sent a strong message to the legislature that they want their state leaders to find more common ground and work better with the governor," Cooper spokeswoman Sadie Weiner said in a statement Wednesday.

"Gov. Cooper is ready to work with Democrats and Republicans to invest more in education and clean water, to create better paying jobs, to expand access to health care and to help our state recover from the recent devastating hurricanes," Weiner said.

Wins in suburban Wake and Mecklenburg counties, along with two pickups in the western mountains, propelled the shift. Big pushes to win Republican-leaning seats in the Wilmington area came close but petered out as the returns came in.

Turnout was the state's highest in a midterm election since 1990, topping 52 percent of registered voters.

The House

Going into Tuesday, the GOP held the House 75-45. It looks like it will be 66-54 when a new legislature is seated in January, although a close race in Mecklenburg County could shift one seat.

Democrats won in a trio of suburban Wake County districts that were a real emphasis for the party, taking out Reps. Nelson Dollar, Chris Malone and John Adcock. Dollar is a key member of the GOP majority, serving as the House appropriations chairman.

The winners were Julie von Haefen, Terence Everitt and Sydney Batch, respectively.

The suburbs were also the story in Mecklenburg County, where Reps. Andy Dulin and Scott Stone went down to Democratic challengers. Rep. Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, seemingly held off Rachel Hunt, former Gov. Jim Hunt's daughter, by 48 votes.

That's in a House district that leans Republican but was targeted by Democrats with more than $1 million in spending.

In the west, Rep. Jonathan Jordan, R-Ashe, lost his re-election bid to Ray Russell, and Democrat Joe Sam Queen won his bid to return to the House from the western mountains.

Reps. Brian Turner and John Ager, both Buncombe County Democrats, won their races, key holds for their party in competitive races.

In New Hanover County, Republican Reps. Ted Davis and Holly Grange beat their Democratic opponents after trailing early. These districts would be considered solidly Republican in most years, but Democrats targeted them in an effort to win the House.

Democrats likely lost two seats, lessening their gains in the House: Rep. Bobbie Richardson, D-Franklin, and Rep. George Graham, D-Lenoir. Graham trailed by 1,300 votes after midnight, with four precincts still out.

The Senate

Republicans hold the Senate now 35-15. If unofficial results – with some very thin margins – hold, it will soon be 29-21. Democrats picked up just enough seats to break the Republican super-majority.

Democrats retained all of their seats and picked up an open seat in Wake County courtesy of Wiley Nickel, who won his first elected office. They picked off five other Republicans:

  • Sen. Tamara Barringer, R-Wake, lost to Democrat Sam Searcy by about 3,200 votes.
  • Sen. Jeff Tarte, R-Mecklenburg, fell by more than 11,000 votes to Natasha Marcus.
  • Democrat Kirk deViere appeared to win a close race against Sen. Wesley Meredith, R-Cumberland, but the margin was close enough that Meredith can request a recount. Provisional ballots also remain to be counted in the race. The margin was 306 votes.
  • On the coast, Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, lost to Democrat Harper Peterson by 36 votes. Again, that's within the recount margin, and provisional ballots must be counted before the race can be certified.
  • Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, also lost a close race, by 763 votes to Michael Garrett.

Sen. John Alexander, R-Wake, trailed for much of the night, but held on to his seat in northern Wake County – a rare bit of good news for Wake County Republicans on a night when Democrats carried much of the county.


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