ten things to be thankful for: #ncpol edition

This past election cycle in North Carolina was a whirlwind. Before we keep pushing forward, the team at Real Facts wanted to take some time to note what we are thankful for—here are some victories and standout moments.

10. Record Turnout (mostly due to women and young people)

 Voter turnout was the highest as it’s ever been in recent years. 52 percent of registered voters cast a ballot, up 8 points from 2014, meaning North Carolina had better turnout than the nation’s average.

 More from the News & Observer story, which illustrated some impressive numbers amongst Democrats:

 “…in more liberal enclaves like Buncombe County turnout increased more than 13 points — up to 60 percent, which is better than some counties have in presidential election years — and throughout the whole Triangle turnout was up around 10 points, to between 55 and 58 percent in Wake, Durham and Orange counties.”

 Regardless of gains, a record number of people participating in the democratic process is something to celebrate.

9. Three Democrats were elected to the Court of Appeals.

 Incumbent Democrat John Arrowood defeated Republican Andrew T. Heath. Tobias “Toby” Hampson, defeated Republicans Jefferson Griffin and Sandra Alice Ray, and Allegra Katherine Collins, also a Democrat, beat Republican Chuck Kitchen. A solid Democratic presence on the courts ensures a check to Republican efforts to pack the judiciary.

8. John Arrowood became the first openly gay person elected to statewide office in North Carolina and in the south.

In that same vein, John Arrowood made history as the first openly gay person elected to statewide office. Arrowood previously served on the board of Equality NC.

7. Pitt County elected its first Black District Attorney Faris Dixon and first Black woman Sheriff Paula Dance.

 Two Black candidates won historic victories in Pitt County. Yet Sheriff Paula Dance noted “I never ran on being an African American. I never ran on being a woman. I ran on qualifications and experience and the people answered.” Dixon acknowledged that new voices can “create change from the inside and for those looking in.” Moreover, he hoped that his victory would encourage kids to “come to the legal field or law enforcement that they wouldn’t have thought before.”

6. No more political ads.

If you are a resident of Wake, Mecklenburg, Guilford, New Hanover, or Alamance counties, you are probably thankful that you no longer have to endure political ads every time you turn on network television. North Carolina saw record spending for state and congressional races on the Democratic side set the tone for a race rife with ads until the very end.

5. A banner year for women in the NC House.

Multiple women first-time candidates issued defeats to male Republican candidates during this year’s election cycle. Sydney Batch (Wake), Rachel Hunt (Mecklenburg), Ashton Clemmons (Guilford), Christy Clark (Mecklenburg), and most impressively Julie Von Haefen (who defeated seven-term incumbent and House Appropriations Chair Nelson Dollar) demonstrated that a new era in NC politics is upon us. Down ballot, voters in the largest counties Wake and Mecklenburg sent more women to local offices.

4. Sheriff candidates who vowed to end cooperation with ICE won big against longtime incumbents.

 In perhaps one of the most impressive victories of election night, Gerald Baker pulled off an upset in Wake County, defeating Sheriff Donnie Harrison who would have “cruised to a fifth term in office.” Baker has vowed to end the controversial 287g program, which allows police departments to cooperate with ICE and deport undocumented immigrants for non-violent offenses. Wake is one of six counties in North Carolina to partner with ICE. The program is widely criticized by organizers and community leaders, who point to North Carolina residents enduring family separation and living in fear.

Furthermore, other “ICE-friendly sheriffs” lost big on election night. Longtime incumbent sheriffs in Guilford and Mecklenburg were ousted in favor of challengers who sought to end the controversial program.

3. Voters rejected two “power grab” constitutional amendments.

The two “power grab” amendments on the ballot, which would have limited the governor’s power to appoint people to the state board of elections and given the legislature power to fill judicial vacancies, were issued a sound defeat, earning only 30-40 percent of the vote. Voters saw through the smoke and mirrors of the last-ditch effort of a desperate Republican supermajority eager to concentrate power in one branch. This defeat is the latest blow to a legislature that is hell bent on shrinking Cooper’s responsibilities as outlined in the constitution. 

2. Anita Earls won a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court.

 Anita Earls, founder and director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, won a seat as North Carolina’s 100th Supreme Court Justice in a “blue moon” election year. This victory is all the more important as the Supreme Court of the United States tilts toward a conservative majority that could prove devastating for civil rights. Earls has a long career as a fighter in the battle against voter suppression and gerrymandering and will have a critical voice on the court.

 Furthermore, in 2016 Republicans held a 4-3 advantage on the NC Supreme Court that upheld both partisan and racially gerrymandered maps drawn by the Republican-led NCGA. With the sound victory by Anita Earls, a civil rights attorney, the court shifts to a 5-2 Democratic majority through at least 2020 which could offer a critical blow to political gerrymandering.

1. Democrats broke the Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate.

 A Republican veto-proof “supermajority” guided by a right-wing conservative vision has wrought devastating policies in the state for eight years. Legislative leaders have executed their agenda at the expense of health, economic and educational opportunity, and democracy for North Carolinians. While there is more work to be done, breaking the supermajority is the first step to a more just and democratic North Carolina.