Wednesday, October 07, 2020

All Eyes on These Democrats in NC's "Bellwether County," New Hanover


In 2016 Watauga County was designated a "bellwether county" -- one of ten across the nation in that year's battleground states -- because Watauga's political history suggested we more often than not voted for the eventual winner of the presidential race. D'oh. We lost our status in 2016 because Watauga went roguishly for Hillary instead of for the winner, Twitterman. 

So much for an alpha sheep decked with a bell who leads the other sheep.

But we're delighted to see New Hanover County listed again as a bellwether county. Not its first time. The Associated Press named it a bellwether in 2016, along with Watauga: "New Hanover County was chosen because Republicans and Democrats are split almost evenly in Wilmington and the surrounding area, and the number of independents registered here has risen so much since the last presidential election that they now outnumber both parties."

Now for 2020, New Hanover gets the honor again in a list compiled by Dave Wasserman, House editor at the Cook Political Report. The New York Times published it as "opinion," and it's pretty damn interesting. Haven't investigated all the other counties on the new list -- I'll get around to them -- but New Hanover rises in the east today like the sun, and I can't take any more light at the moment. Several men and women from New Hanover, either already in the General Assembly (some flipped their seats in 2018), or are trying to get there, fill my eyeballs today -- the potential and the odds for Democrats' taking back the General Assembly in 2020. 

Here's a primer:

NC House Districts

Dist. 18 -- Deb Butler (incumbent Democrat), one of the most famous progressive warriors in the General Assembly, challenged by Republican Warren Kennedy. Bitzer rates the district "Safe Democratic."


Dist. 19 (only part of New Hanover, with a larger slice of New Brunswick to the south-- problematic for a Democratic win minus a Blue Wave) -- Open seatDemocrat Marcia Morgan is being challenged by Republican Charlie Miller. Quoting myself from January of this year:

Morgan is a 74-year-old Baby Boomer born in 1946. She was an educator, became a career Army officer who retired as a colonel. She taught ROTC and did two tours at the Pentagon including a staff position with the Army Chief of Staff. She says, "I have thoroughly enjoyed retirement and the freedom to do as I please, but the current political environment has challenged me to step forward once again. I do not have a background in politics, but I DO have a strong sense of service to this community and a demonstrated ability to accomplish difficult tasks. I believe we have a commitment to improve our economy, provide equal opportunities for all and protect our environment – and one of the fundamental ways to accomplish those things is through quality education." She details her career, which took her all over the world for the Army, on her website.

Morgan has been endorsed by Lillian's List. She came within 883 votes of beating Ted Davis in 2018 in the old District 19. The last fundraising report I've seen suggested a good effort on her part for 2020.



Dist. 20 -- Ted Davis, incumbent Republican, formerly in the 19th but drawn out of that district and into Holly Grange's district. The double-bunking of incumbent Republicans was certainly part of Holly Grange's decision to opt out of reelection and run for governor against Dan Forest instead (a remarkably empty gesture in today's NCGOP). Democrat Adam Ericson, a public high school teacher, is challenging Davis. analysis of the prospect: "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 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!"


NC Senate

Dist. 9 -- Harper Peterson (incumbent Democrat: elected 2018), challenged by Republican attorney Mike Lee. Rated a "Toss Up" by Bitzer. Peterson beat Lee in 2018, so this is a rematch. Fundraising on both sides has been eye-popping, though Lee was edging Peterson slightly in the $$ race the last time I looked. Peterson is a former mayor of Wilmington and has been very visible in the controversy surrounding the pollution of the Cape Fear River.


U.S. House

Dist. 7 -- David Rouzer, incumbent Republican, challenged by Democrat Christopher Ward. Considered a safe Republican district because of all that rural real estate north of Wilmington, Republican counties stretching all the way to Johnston County just south of Wake.

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