Local Politics

Will N.C. Senate Dems see red after election?

Posted October 14, 2008 5:55 p.m. EDT
Updated October 14, 2008 7:11 p.m. EDT

— Democrats have controlled the state Senate since the 1870s, but a political analyst said that reign could come to an end in three weeks.

John Davis, the former president of NCFREE, a non-partisan political research business association, has been tracking legislative races for 23 years. This year, he said, eight Democratic seats are vulnerable, which could shift the balance of power in the chamber.

Senate Democrats now hold a comfortable majority of 31 seats to 19 Republican seats.

"If you look at all the competitive districts, most are Republican-leaning held by Democrats," Davis said. "There's actually the possibility that Republicans could take over the Senate."

The eight key Senate races, according to Davis, are as follows:

  • District 5 in Greene, Pitt and Wayne counties, where Sen. John Kerr is retiring
  • District 8 in Brunswick, Columbus and Pender counties, held by Sen. R.C. Soles
  • District 9 in New Hanover County, held by Sen. Julia Boseman
  • District 24 in Alamance and Caswell counties, held by Sen. Tony Foriest
  • District 43 in Gaston County, held by Sen. David Hoyle
  • District 45 in Alexander, Ashe, Watauga and Wilkes counties, held by Sen. Steve Goss
  • District 46 in Cleveland and Rutherford counties, where Sen. Walter Dalton is running for lieutenant governor
  • District 47 in Avery, Haywood, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell and Yancey counties, held by Sen. Joe Sam Queen

In addition to the Republican-leaning districts in western North Carolina, some of the incumbents face legal and public relations problems, Davis said.

Soles' opponent, for example, publicly confronted him on rumors he faces a federal indictment. Soles has denied the rumors.

Boseman is under investigation for forging campaign finance reports. She also has been involved in a high-profile custody battle with her former partner.

Also, Hoyle has been criticized for voting to fund a toll road in Gaston County that would run near property he plans to develop.

"The Democrats know they are on the defensive in a lot of different districts. The good news is they have the resources and grassroots effort to compete," Democratic political consultant Brad Crone said.

The Democratic candidates in those eight races have raised more than three times as much money as their GOP opponents, $1.1 million to $320,000, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.

"All of the races are close, but I think the Democrats will hold on to a 26-24 lead or a 27-23 majority," Crone said.

Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight also dismissed talk of a Republican takeover, noting the party's confidential polls show good numbers.

"I strongly believe he's inaccurate," Basnight said of Davis' predictions. "The worst we'll see is 29 Democratic seats, and the best we'll see is 33."

Senate Republicans are just as confident of victory, and they have planned a Wednesday news conference to outline their legislative priorities if they win a majority.