NC Dems hope to ride wave to turn tide in House

Posted November 24, 2017 4:59 p.m. EST
Updated November 24, 2017 6:46 p.m. EST

— Although it is months before candidates must register to run for office in 2018, it's already clear that there will be some new faces in state government. That's because a number of lawmakers have already announced plans not to run for re-election.

Wilson Rep. Susan Martin, a Republican, is a three-term member of House leadership. She said this week she won't seek a fourth term. In the Senate, Republican Cathy Dunn from Davidson County cited health reasons for bowing out next year.

Ron Rabin, of Harnett County, Wake County's Chad Barefoot, Bill Cook, of Beaufort County, and Union County's Tommy Tucker have all also taken their names off the list. As the court battle over redrawing districts continues, others may follow suit.

Longtime GOP political strategist Carter Wrenn says that while each lawmaker has personal reasons for choosing to step down, the big picture shows 2018 shaping up as a tough year for tRepublicans.

Some, like Barefoot, were drawn into districts with other incumbents. In other cases, like Martin, their re-drawn districts became harder to win.

"She was in a sort of swing district, and they tilted it the other way. So it's more Democratic. It's a pretty uphill fight for her to win," Wrenn said.

But, Wrenn adds, the national political climate could also be a factor.

Wrenn says it's not at all unusual for the party that loses the White House to win state and congressional seats in the next cycle. It's known as a "wave election," and it happened in 2010 after President Barack Obama's first election.

Earlier this month, Democrats made huge gains in the Virginia statehouse, overturning even senior Republicans.

"Will it happen? Right now it seems to be happening," Wrenn said. "A lot can happen between now and next November.

"If you’re a Republican at this point, your wisest path is to assume the worst and get ready, and hope you weather the storm."

Democrats are hoping to flip five state House seats to break the GOP's veto-proof majority there.

Wrenn believes that is a possibility. State Democratic Party spokesman Robert Howard agrees.

"New, less-partisan districts, a political climate fueled by people's frustration with Republican attempts to rig the system against the middle class, and strong Democratic challengers will make even the most gerrymandered Republican districts competitive," Howard said in a statement.