Much is at stake in legislative races
RALEIGH – N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore of Kings Mountain said in a recent interview that he believed Republicans could increase their majority in the 120-member House by two members in the November election.
Republicans currently hold 74 House seats, while Democrats have 45. There is one unaffiliated member, Rep. Paul Tine of Dare County, who caucuses with Republicans.
Moore cited early polls done by his caucus in competitive House districts, while acknowledging that his outlook could change as the election nears.
"Our realistic projections are we're hoping to come in with two more Republicans than we have right now, and our caucus will run campaigns with that eye," the first-term speaker said.
Less than two months before Election Day, Moore's hypothesis is possible, but not probable. Republicans would have to have a phenomenal night across the board for that to happen.
Let's make one thing clear from the outset, though. Republicans are expected to keep majorities in the House and Senate. Moore likely will continue to lead the House through the next two-year legislative session. Senate leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, will continue to lead the Senate.
A more likely scenario coming out of November is that Democrats will cut into the Republican majority in the House, with a solid opportunity to eliminate the GOP super-majority in that chamber. Democrats need to win four net seats to end the GOP's veto-proof majority in the House.
Ending the super-majority would be a coup for Democrats, especially if Democrat Roy Cooper wins the gubernatorial race and could veto legislation without an almost definite override. Cooper is leading Republican Pat McCrory in recent polls, but the race is tight. A Cooper victory Nov. 8 could be a big check on Republicans' conservative advances in Raleigh this decade. A good November for House Democrats also could put them in position to win the chamber back in 2018.
The end of the House super-majority would strengthen more moderate Republican lawmakers, whose views align more closely with Democrats. It also would enhance Democrats’ ability to play more meaningful roles in the legislative process and give the governor more bargaining power with the legislature.
Political consultants consider as many as 20 House races – give or take a couple – to be competitive this election cycle. The Raleigh and Charlotte areas, because of demographic and voter registration shifts in the suburbs, are once again the main battlegrounds for the fight for the Legislature. At least nine House seats in and around North Carolina's two largest cities are considered in play this cycle.
Other competitive House contests across the state are taking place in the Fayetteville, Wilson and Asheville areas, as well on the Outer Banks.
And while Senate Republicans could lose a couple of net seats, the GOP super-majority in that chamber doesn't appear to be in significant peril in 2016. Republicans hold 34 of the chamber's 50 seats, meaning Democrats would need to net five seats to eliminate the super-majority there. Political consultants and experts believe seven to nine Senate seats are in play this year, including a few in the Wake County area. Wilmington, Fayetteville, Greensboro and the Outer Banks also have compelling Senate races to keep an eye on this time around.
More is at stake in the General Assembly this year than in the past couple of election cycles.
It's time for voters to pay attention.
Patrick Gannon is the columnist for the Capitol Press Association. Reach him firstname.lastname@example.org.