Monday, June 22, 2020

Un-Trumping North Carolina: The Second Line of Dems Who Could Flip Control of the NC House

Dan Besse (Dist. 74)

Prof. Bitzer rates the district "Competitive Lean Republican." Trump won it in 2016 with 53.03% of the vote. The seat is open in 2020.

"Besse has spent his career as an attorney focusing on environmental issues and serving five terms on the Winston-Salem city council. Like so many districts, this once grossly gerrymandered district has been redrawn, making it more competitive, which prompted the incumbent Republican [Debra Conrad] not to seek another term. As a familiar figure in the area, Besse is a very promising candidate." (The Long Leaf Pine Slate)

"The newly drawn NC-H74 has been slowly trending blue, and 2020 primary turnout in Forsyth County was up 29% over 2016 primary turnout, making this an excellent target to flip in 2020. Dan Besse, the Democratic candidate, ran in the former NC-H75 in 2018 and overperformed the expected margin in that district by several points. Besse is a North Carolina native, an attorney, and a five-term Winston-Salem City Council member. Besse is focused on high-quality public schools, Medicaid expansion, jobs for working families, and clean water and air." (

Besse will face Lewisville Town Councilman and Republican Jeff Zenger, who bills himself as "a principled conservative" (as distinct from a Trumpist?). He couldn't resist the urge to include a pict of himself firing a gun on his website (but what! no pict of him holding a Bible?).

Nicole Quick (Dist. 59)

Bitzer sez "Lean Republican." Trump took the district with 53.06% of the vote in 2016.

WataugaWatch covered Quick's coming-out-as-a-candidate fundraiser back last September and was impressed by the star power of other successful Democratic office-holders who came out to support her.

"Quick is a 20-year resident of Guilford County and former manufacturing executive. As a parent of a child with autism, she is passionate about education quality, the environment and voting rights .... This district in the Greensboro suburbs has leaned slightly Republican in the past, but with Democratic turnout likely to increase in 2020, is ripe for a strong challenger like Quick." (The Long Leaf Pine Slate)

"Under the new NC House map, NC-H59 is about 9 points more favorable for Democrats, making it an excellent target to flip in 2020 .... Republicans’ performance has only been possible because Democratic turnout has significantly lagged Republican turnout in the district. The great news is that 2020 primary turnout was up 20% in Guilford County over 2016, and there is ample room to reverse the slight Republican lean in this district in recent elections by building on that momentum to turn out sporadic Democratic voters here this fall.  Democrats are fielding a strong challenger in NC-H59 in Nicole Quick. Born in southeastern North Carolina, she currently resides in eastern Guilford County. Quick’s history as a business leader includes time forecasting and budgeting at Guilford Mills. When her son was diagnosed with autism, she decided to undergo training to provide daily occupational therapy for him. Quick went on to lead teacher instruction and workshops focused on working with children with autism in inclusive classrooms." (

Quick is up against Republican incumbent Jon Hardister, the Republican Whip in the House who has an earned reputation as a snake. He was a prime operative in the veto override ambush pulled off by Speaker Tim Moore early on the morning of September 11. 

Aimy Steele (Dist. 82)

Bitzer ... "Lean Republican." Trump took the district with 54.94% of the vote.

WataugaWatch has been following Steele since she ran for the seat in 2018, taking on powerful long-time Rep. Linda Johnson (here). Johnson abruptly decided not to run again because of illness and then tragically passed away from an aggressive brain cancer, leaving an open seat. I wrote about Steele's chances for 2020 in November 2019 and again in January of this year. In other words, I've been anticipating her ascension to Raleigh for a long time.

"As a former school principal and mother of 5, Steele is passionate about educational quality and equity." (The Long Leaf Pine Slate)

"Cabarrus County has been trending blue over the past several election cycles. In 2018, Democratic challenger Aimy Steele came within 6 points of upsetting the Republican incumbent in NC-H82 [Johnson], greatly improving on Gov. Cooper’s 2016 performance in the district – and NC-H82 has since been redrawn to be 3 points more favorable for Democrats. And 2020 primary turnout increased 32% in Cabarrus County over 2016 – a great sign for Democrats! Steele is running again, this time with greater name recognition and a campaign organization already in place." (

Steele is up against Kristin Baker, a female "physician who has practiced psychiatry in various settings including as a hospice medical director." Her impressive professional credentials and her relentless use of the "conservative" self-identifier means she could be a formidable opponent for Steele in a district not quite ready to turn blue.

Adam Erickson (Dist. 20)

Bitzer minces no words: "Safe Republican." Trump won the district with 55.09% of the vote. The most recent remapping double-bunked two incumbent Republicans in this New Hanover County district -- Holly Grange, who opted to run for governor against Dan Forest in the Republican primary, and Ted Davis, who's represented Dist. 19 for several terms. Holly Grange went down in her primary; Ted Davis remains on the ballot in a district which doesn't know him as well.

"Adam Ericson is a public high school teacher. He believes that the governed deserve real representation, but do not have it today in North Carolina. He is running a bold campaign to invest in North Carolina's education, fight for worker's rights, make health care affordable and ensure a livable climate for our state's next generation." (The Long Leaf Pine Slate)

"Gov. Cooper lost the newly constituted NC-H20 by just 5 points in 2016, and the NC House race was just as close in 2018. The new map draws out the district’s former incumbent [Grange] and draws in NC House Rep. Ted Davis, Jr. (R), formerly of NC House District 19. The pool of left-leaning voters who stayed home in NC-H20 in 2018 was about 14 points more left-leaning than the folks who came out to the polls, and the great news is that 2020 primary turnout was up 30% over 2016! This district is flippable if we can get enough left-leaning voters to the polls in November." (

Erickson is up against an old possum in Ted Davis, who was appointed to his seat in 2012. At the time, he was most famous to us for voting to turn down a grant of $8,899 from the North Carolina state government for "family planning" supplies and services, particularly contraceptives for young women who wanted or needed them. Ted Davis said at the time, "If these young women are being responsible and didn't have the sex to begin with, we wouldn't have this problem to begin with."

Jason Cain (Dist. 51)

Bitzer rates it "Safe Republican," though FlipNC calls it "within reach" for Cain and REAL FACTS NC calls it "competitive." Trump took the district in 2016 with 55.54%.

"NC-H51 has a similar profile to NC-H1 [where Democrat Emily Bunch Nicholson is running as a first-liner], with Black and Latinx voters comprising the majority of left-leaning voters. Like NC-H1, flipping this district will require candidates and a statewide strategy that brings the Democratic base to the polls. Democrat Jason Cain, a 10-year Army veteran who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan five times, is challenging Republican John Sauls in NC-H51. His platforms include expanding access to Medicaid, ending the school-to-prison pipeline by providing equal access to a high-quality education, and championing economic development in the central region." (

Republican John Sauls has a controversial history: "Incumbent Republican John Sauls returned to the House in 2016 after a previous stint from 2003 to 2007 when he joined the coalition of rebel Republicans who voted for Democrat Jim Black for the co-speakership. Black was later indicted for corruption. Sauls seeks another term representing Harnett and Lee counties." (RealFactsNC)

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