Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Un-Trumping North Carolina: 3rd Tier of Potential Red-to-Blue Flips in NC Senate

Dist. 1 (Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell, Washington, Chowan, Perquimans, Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, Gates, and Hertford counties)
Democrat Tess Judge v. Republican Bob Steinburg (incumbent finishing 1st term in Senate, previously served 3 terms in NC House)

Rated "Lean Republican." Trump took the district with 54.84% of the vote in 2016. (Michael Bitzer)

A "Pivotal Race" and "extremely competitive" (FlipNC.org). RealFactsNC and Long Leaf Pine Slate agree it's a "race to watch."

We were keen about Tess Judge when she ran in 2018 in NC House District 6. She has worked in hospitality management her entire career and is well known in the coastal community for serving on the Board of Directors of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce. She and her late husband Warren were named Co-Citizens of the Year by the Chamber in 2011. She also currently serves on the Board of the Outer Banks Hospital and is Chair of the Outer Banks Hospital Development Council. Her concern over environmental protections for a fragile coast sets her apart from most candidates on the other side. Long Leaf Pine Slate: "Judge's deep connections with communities across Eastern NC will prove invaluable in dislodging a widely unloved incumbent who is relying on Raleigh PAC money to fund his campaign."

That "widely unloved incumbent," Bob Steinburg, has a rap sheet. Wikipedia: "Steinburg has been arrested twice, once for disorderly conduct and once for assault on his opponent's campaign manager. The charges were later dismissed. He has received heavy criticism for his temper, even being called 'unfit for state Senate seat' by Senator Bill Cook. Cook, R-Beaufort, chose not to seek re-election [in 2018] after court-ordered redistricting put him outside of a redrawn Senate District 1. Cook endorsed Steinburg's primary opponent Clark Twiddy and contributed money to his campaign .... Steinburg missed 1 out of 5 votes during the 2014-2015 and 2017-2018 sessions in the NC House. The only members of the House of Representatives who have missed more votes were Representatives who resigned while in the middle of their term or those appointed to fill the remaining term. His missed votes were due to his absence during the House session." Just today, the Long Leaf Pine Slate exposed the "dark, sad swamp" of Steinburg's Facebook page, which is filled with "racism, conspiracy theory and extremism — but mostly racism."

Dist. 24 (Alamance and the eastern half of Guilford counties)
Democrat J.D. Wooten v. Republican Amy Galey, for an open seat

Open because ... five-term incumbent Republican Rick Gunn waited until two weeks before filing began last December to announce he wouldn't be running for reelection in 2020. 

Rated "Lean Republican." Trump took the district with 54.93% of the vote. (Bitzer)

A race to watch for both RealFactsNC and Long Leaf Pine Slate.

I enthusiastically followed Wooten's attempt to gain the seat in the blue wave of 2018. He got 46.14% of the vote against Tea Party incumbent Rick Gunn -- a loss by 6,000 votes, a sobering number. But a damn good base to build on, and Wooten seemed willing to do the work when he announced he would try again in 2020.

The trend with partisan shifts in 2018 -- the higher the income and/or the education, the more likely the flip from Republican to Democratic -- that trend is expected to hold in 2020, and the burgeoning suburban sprawl along the I-40 and I-85 corridors which slice through the district would appear to fit the bill. Wooten himself lives in the I-40 corridor in eastern Guilford, the little suburb of Whitsett. Over in Alamance, Burlington and Graham are the major urban centers. In terms of income, Alamance's richest township is Coble, south of I-40, followed in wealth by Melville Township (both I-40 and I-85 adjacent), Albright, and Boone Station. Boone Station also shows up in the statistics as the most educated in the county.

In 2018 Wooten evidently ran an active campaign, and an effective one, or he wouldn't have done as well. He had a pretty relentless canvassing program (judging from Facebook posts) and was effective raising money enough to be a threat to an incumbent who had probably grown a little complacent. Republican Gunn had easily won reelection in 2016 and didn't even have a Democratic opponent in 2014. Is it not telling that he dropped out at the last minute rather than run again in 2020?

Wooten's Republican opponent this November, Amy Galey, looks formidable. Galey is a young 52. She ran for the Alamance Commission first time in the 2016 Republican primary, fell short by 40 votes, but won a special election the next year for an unexpired commissioner's seat and was promptly elected chair of the commission. She won reelection in her own right in 2018 as the top vote-getter. Alamance is a very red county, though Galey sounds like a moderate: "I have supported public education while expecting accountability for taxpayer investment, supported farmland preservation, and worked on smart growth answers to Alamance County’s challenges." Talks like a pro-growth Democrat -- the importance of education, farmland preservation, and "smart growth." According to Isaac Groves, Galey is "often the swing vote" on the Alamance County Commission, "sometimes siding with the conservatives on the board" (interesting way to put it). "She also joined the 3–2 majority in June to approve an 8-cent property tax rate increase to fund the voter-approved $189.6 million education bond package and long-range capital plan County Manager Bryan Hagood introduced." Not the type of rural Republican we're used to these days. More of an urban type.

Dist. 25 (Anson, Richmond, Moore, and Scotland counties)
Democrat Helen Probst Mills v. 3-term Republican incumbent Tom McInnis

Rated "Safe Republican" by Bitzer (ouch). Trump took the district with 56.30% of the vote.

Nevertheless, RealFactsNC considers this a race to watch.

We followed Helen Probst Mills when she ran the first time for this seat in 2018. She did not quite make it to 43% of the vote that year. She trained as an attorney in Illinois and lives now in Pinehurst. She entered the race in 2018, she said, in part to simply provide an option. “The reality is that I walk in on Election Day to the polling booth here in Pinehurst and there are no Democrats for me to check. We need a choice." Mills says she grew up a daughter to a single mother and is herself the mother of three and a cancer survivor who moved to North Carolina with her husband, Stuart, in 2006. In 2017, Mills was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to the Sandhills Community College Board of Trustees. She also serves on the college’s Foundation Board, where she helped develop a program allowing high school graduates to attend for two years without having to pay tuition. She serves as development chair for the Northern Moore Family Resource Center in Robbins, which has opened a preschool and is developing a community center. She credits the overcoming of breast cancer to having health insurance: “Everyone, no matter their background or how much money they make, should have access to affordable, quality health care. Yet too many politicians in Raleigh put petty partisan politics over policies that would help thousands. That is wrong for my community and for North Carolina.”

Her Republican opponent, Tom McInnis, is a good ole boy auctioneer not above cutting deals, and he drew a primary challenge in 2018 from the very conservative mayor of Whispering Pines in Moore County (which had been added to McInnis's district by remapping). According to VoteSmart.org, McInnis never took a college class, and his only education above the high school level was auctioneer school. Curiously, he lists no religious nor denominational affiliation,

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