Few races in NC’s House, Senate will be competitive in 2022, report says

Capitol Report

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A new analysis released Monday shows fewer than 10 percent of districts in the General Assembly are considered competitive in next year’s election.

The North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation, a non-partisan group that conducts political analysis for the business community, released their findings following the conclusion of the redistricting process earlier this month.

The group found out of 120 state House districts, eight are considered competitive. In the Senate, six districts are competitive out of 50.

“So, it really only leaves a handful that are up in the air where there could be some opportunity for change,” said Anna Beavon Gravely, executive director of NCFREE. “If you were to just flip a coin and have it be what the flavor of the district, or the profile looks like, the Republicans do seem to have a better advantage.”

Click here to view NCFREE’s district-by-district analysis.

The analysis also found that in the House, there are 50 strong Republican seats and 43 strong Democratic seats. In the Senate, they found 23 seats are strong Republican compared with 18 that are strong Democratic.

The group looked at statewide election data going back to 2014 as well voter data in the newly drawn districts. She noted the politics of 2022 could lead to some districts becoming competitive that aren’t currently rated that way.

“Just because a district isn’t in the competitive category, doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be competitive,” she said. “We like to use it to predict the future, but we do not have a crystal ball.”

Gravely attributed the lack of competitive races in part to the tendency of Republican voters to live in rural areas while urban areas to be populated moreso by Democratic voters, something echoed by Sen. Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus), who is one of the state legislators who led the redistricting process.

“Our system of government has geographic-based districts, so when an area’s population is dominated by people who typically support one party over the other, then it stands to reason the district for that area is not going to be all that competitive. Political scientists will tell you this pattern has intensified in recent years – people are sorting more and more into neighborhoods that reflect their politics,” said Newton in a statement Monday.

But, Meredith College political analyst David McLennan said the districts are drawn in such a way as to minimize competition.

“They could do it differently. We could have as many as 45 to 50 competitive seats,” he said. “It’s particularly bad on the House side where literally (Republicans) don’t even need the competitive seats in order to retain a majority.”

Various lawsuits are pending as Democrats and non-partisan groups have accused Republicans of gerrymandering, drawing the maps to give themselves a significant advantage in elections for both the General Assembly and Congress.

While Democrats say they hope courts will act to overturn the maps before next year’s election, McLennan said it’s just as likely they will remain in place. During the last decade’s redistricting cycle maps stayed in place for years before courts overturned them.

“Courts tend to move at their own pace. And, we may not have any hearings until we’re well into the 2022 election cycle,” he said. “This is something that courts in North Carolina and at the federal level have been very cautious about. So, I think it could very well be these maps survive, and we vote using these maps in 2022.”

The North Carolina League of Conservation Voters filed a lawsuit last week, accusing legislative leaders of unconstitutional racial and partisan gerrymandering and provided proposed maps to replace the existing ones. Click here to view.

There’s been a flurry of candidate announcements since the redistricting process ended last month, as the candidate filing period begins Dec. 6. The primary in North Carolina is scheduled for Mar. 8.

“The courts have often looked at not wanting to disrupt election calendars. And, we’re getting very close to filing and then the primary election period coming up in the spring,” said McLennan. “This is not a quick process.”

Anna Beavon Gravely said she thinks there’s a “heavy favorability that they’re going to be the maps for ’22. For ’24, that’s where I think there’s going to be a lot of question.”

She added, “I think 2024 is up in the air for sure.”

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