EDITORIAL: Dan Besse, and flipping the NC House

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dan besse
Dan Besse in 2015, at the affordable-housing complex where he lived until moving out so he could advocate for its residents without conflict.

When longtime Winston-Salem City Council member Dan Besse announced his intention to run for the state House in District 75, he became part of a movement in North Carolina and other states to overturn Republican majorities and restore some balance to state legislatures around the country.

District 75 is currently held by Republican Donny Lambeth, who ran unopposed in 2016, beat Democratic challenger David Gordon by 25 points, and ran unopposed again in 2012 when he basically inherited his seat from Republican Bill McGee, who himself ran unopposed in 2010, 2006 and 2004.

This lack of competition would indicate that this is a safe district for Lambeth, McGee and any other Republican who washes down the pike. But Besse has served on council with some distinction, has experience and name recognition and, most important, a slate: Besse knows who he is and what he stands for. He’s good in front of a crowd, too.

Still, for Besse to win this seat would be catastrophic for the NC GOP, because this is one of its least vulnerable NC House districts according to the grassroots political website Indivisible Flip NC, which puts it at -7 for Democrats.

Indivisible ranked Guilford County’s District 61, currently occupied by Republican John Faircloth, as +52 Democrat — Roy Cooper took it by 52 points in 2016… sort of. Cooper won by that margin in what would be the new district, as drawn by Special Master Nathaniel Persily, appointed by a federal court to redraw the illegal districts foisted upon us by state Republicans in 2011.

But it looks like those old, illegitimate districts will hold through the 2018 election. NC House Republicans argued this point all the way to the Supreme Court, and though that body has yet to impart judgment on these House districts, earlier this month SCOTUS issued a stay on the redrawing of our illegal US Congressional Districts through the election, noting there wasn’t enough time before filing for the races begins. There’s no reason to believe the court will act any differently when it comes to our state House districts.

In which case, Dan Besse may be our only hope.

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