New state legislative maps spur Democrats to make a play in the Triad.
North Carolina Democrats see a road to retaking control of the General Assembly through the suburbs of the Triad.
The remedial maps for state legislative districts approved by the courts for the 2020 elections in October curbed Republican partisan gerrymandering, providing new openings for Democratic candidates.
Democratic gains in the 2018 midterms broke the Republicans’ veto-proof supermajority.
To preserve their majorities in the two legislative chambers and hold onto power in the 2020 election, Republicans can afford to lose up to four seats in the House and three seats in the Senate without resulting in a deadlock.
Likewise, Democrats would need to pick up six seats in the House and five in the Senate to take control.
Flip NC, a volunteer, Democrat-aligned group, is declaring that “the NC House majority is up for grabs for the first time in a decade.” Among three “pivotal districts” targeted by the group are District 59, a large swatch of eastern Guilford County represented by Majority Whip Jon Hardister, and District 74, a western Forsyth County district where current representative Debra Conrad is retiring.
Hardister, a four-term incumbent who has ascended into the Republican leadership ranks, faces a challenge from Nicole Quick, the former chair of the Guilford County Democrats. At the time she filed her organizational report in late September, Quick had raised $10,260, while Hardister’s most recent filing shows him holding a $61,197 campaign war chest. Democratic activists are looking to the presidential campaign to rally sporadic Democratic voters to offset Hardister’s advantage.
In Forsyth County, Dan Besse, a Democrat who is serving his fourth term on Winston-Salem City Council, has raised $25,318 in his run for the District 74 seat. Two years ago, Besse mounted an unsuccessful challenge against Republican Donny Lambeth in District 75. Republican Jeff Zenger, a Lewisville town councilman, has also filed for the seat. Zenger has no campaign finance reports on file with the state Board of Elections. Flip NC rates District 74 as favorable to the Republican candidate by 4 points, but as the sixth most competitive race in the state, a win for Besse would likely usher in Democratic control of the House.
Derwin Montgomery, the Democratic incumbent in District 72, withdrew his candidacy for the state legislative seat to run for the 6th Congressional District. Montgomery’s exit clears the field for Amber Baker and Lashun Huntley, both Democrats who filed on Monday. Baker is the principal of Kimberly Park Elementary, while Huntley is the CEO of United Health Centers, a network of health clinics in Winston-Salem.
In nearby District 71, Democrat Evelyn Terry has drawn a primary challenge from Kanika Brown.
Republican Donny Lambeth, a senior budget writer in the House, told Triad City Beat that he plans to file for re-election in District 75, which covers Kernersville and the eastern portion of Forsyth County.
John Faircloth, a five-term lawmaker who represents northwest Guilford County and portions of High Point, has drawn a Democratic challenger in District 62. Brandon Gray of Oak Ridge describes himself as a “24-year-old political science major” on his website.
The four Democrats in the Guilford County state House delegation are running unopposed so far, including Ashton Clemmons in District 57, Amos Quick in District 58, Cecil Brockman in District 60 and Pricey Harrison in District 61.
The remedial map made dramatic changes to the state Senate districts in Forsyth. Formerly drawn with a Democrat-favored district in the urban core of Winston-Salem and a Republican-favored district creating a suburban donut, the new map bisects the county, with District 32 covering the west and much of Winston-Salem, while the new District 31 takes in Kernersville and the eastern section of Forsyth County along with the entirety of Davie County.
Democrat Paul Lowe filed for re-election in District 32.
Flip NC is targeting District 31, where Republican incumbent Joyce Krawiec is filing for re-election. The map changes shift the district 14 points to the left, but it still leans Republican by five points, according to Flip NC’s analysis. Democrats performed poorly in the areas covered by the new district in 2018, but Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper came within four points of carrying it in 2016. With strong Democratic turnout in next year’s presidential election, Flip NC views District 31 as being within striking distance.
Assuming two easy pickups in Mecklenburg and Wake counties, Democratic wins in District 31 and two other districts in northeastern North Carolina and the Rocky Mount area would hand control of the Senate over to the Democrats.
Republican Joyce Krawiec, a social-conservative lawmaker who has served three terms in the Senate, held a campaign war chest of $64,229 as of her most recent filing in June. Terri LeGrand, a Democrat who retired as former associate director of systems compliance at Wake Forest University, is mounting a challenge against Krawiec. LeGrand unsuccessfully challenged Republican Debra Conrad in House District 74 in 2018. That year, she raised and spent more than $700,000, and Gov. Roy Cooper attended her fundraiser to help bankroll her campaign. As of June 30, LeGrand had $11,755 in cash on hand.
In Guilford County, it’s the Democrats who are defending a Senate seat.
In 2018, Democrat Michael Garrett unseated Republican Trudy Wade by a mere 63 votes. But the remedial map shifts the seat about five points to the left, Flip NC finds, adding that “it now looks fairly safe for Democrats in 2020.” Still, the group rates it as one of the three most vulnerable seats for Democrats in the next election.
Garrett is going into the 2020 election with $29,418 in cash on hand.
Republican Sebastian King, a former policy advisor for House Majority Whip Jon Hardister, is challenging Garrett. King had raised $10,550 as of June 30.
Gladys Robinson is running unopposed in District 32.
Governor’s race and other statewide contests
The 2020 election will put races for governor and other seats on the Council of State on the ballot.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and Holly Grange, a state representative from Wilmington, are vying for the Republican nomination to take on Democratic incumbent Roy Cooper in the governor’s race.
With Forest vacating the lieutenant governor’s office, a crowded Republican primary is shaping up that includes former US House Rep. Renee Ellmers; Andy Wells, a state senator from Catawba County; former Mt. Airy mayor Deborah Cochran; Greg Gebhardt, a National Guard major; and Mark Robinson, a Second Amendment advocate whose comments to Greensboro City Council created a viral conservative media sensation last year. Mark Johnson, currently serving as state superintendent of public education, has announced that he plans to run, along with Scott Stone, a former state representative from Mecklenburg County.
The Democratic field for lieutenant governor includes Chaz Beasley, a state senator from Charlotte; Yvonne Holley, a state representative from Raleigh; Terry Van Duyn, a state senator from Asheville; Allen Thomas, a county commissioner in Hoke County; and Bill Toole, an environmental attorney whose campaign emphasizes the climate crisis.
Democrat Josh Stein, who has served one term as attorney general, is receiving a challenge from Jim O’Neill, the Forsyth County district attorney.
With Republican Cherie Berry retiring as labor commissioner after two decades in office, three candidates are contending in the Republican primary: Pearl Burris-Floyd, a member of the UNC Board of Governors from Dallas; Josh Dobson, a state House member who represents three western counties; and Chuck Stanley of Clarendon.
The only Democrat to file for labor commissioner so far is Wake County Commissioner Jessica Holmes.
With Johnson angling for the lieutenant governor’s job, four Democrats have filed for superintendent of public instruction: Jen Mangrum, a former professor at UNCG who unsuccessfully challenged Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger in 2018; Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board member James Barrett; political and education consultant Constance Lav Johnson; and Michael Maher, an assistant professor at St. Augustine’s University and former teacher in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
The local under-card
Voters in Forsyth and Guilford counties will also have local races on the ballot. Winston-Salem City Council, which was scheduled on odd-numbered years, is now scheduled to coincide with presidential elections.
Mayor Allen Joines, a Democrat, filed for re-election, seeking his sixth term. JoAnne Allen, a sharp critic of the current council, has previously announced that she will challenge Joines in the Democratic primary.
The Northeast Ward Democratic primary has so far drawn two candidates: Morticia (Tee-Tee) Parmon and Keith King. Tee-Tee Parmon is the daughter of the late Earline Parmon, a state senator. King, who owns Kingz Downtown Market, previously ran an unsuccessful campaign for the seat as an unaffiliated candidate. Mayor Pro Tem Vivian Burke, also a Democrat and the representative of the Ward since 1977, has not announced whether she will seek re-election.
Kismet Loftin-Bell, a professor, consultant and trainer, is challenging incumbent Annette Scippio in the Democratic primary for the East Ward.
Mackenzie Cates Allen is challenging John Larson in the Democratic primary for the South Ward.
With Dan Besse’s retirement to run for state House leaving a vacancy in the Southwest Ward, Democrat Scott Andree Bowen, an associate pastor at Christ Community Church, is the only candidate to file so far.
Democrat DD Adams is so far running unopposed in the North Ward. Likewise, Democrat Jeff Macintosh is running unopposed in the Northwest Ward, and Democrat James Taylor is running unopposed in the Southeast Ward. Republican Robert Clark is running unopposed in the West Ward.
In Forsyth County, three of the four seats in suburban District B on the Forsyth County Commission are also up for a vote. The race has drawn four Republican candidates, including the three incumbents — Dave Plyler, Gloria Whisenhunt and Richard Linville — along with newcomer Terri Mrazek. One Democrat, Gull Riaz, has also filed in District B.
In Guilford County, some county commission and some school board seats are up for re-election. Democrat Kirk Perkins is looking to retake the District 4 seat, which he lost after the Republican-controlled General Assembly imposed a new district map that made the district more favorable for a Republican candidate. Mary Beth Murphy, a middle school civics teacher, said she plans to file for the seat on Wednesday. Republican Alan Branson, who took the seat from Perkins, has not said whether he’s running for re-election.
Democrat Macon Sullivan has filed for the District 5 seat. Republican Jeff Phillips hasn’t filed yet, but will likely seek re-election considering that he was recently chosen by his colleagues to chair the commission for the next year.
Democrat James Upchurch has filed for the District 6 seat, which is currently represented by Republican Hank Henning, who has not announced whether he plans to seek re-election.
Democrat Skip Alston so far faces no opposition in District 8.
Three candidates have filed for Guilford County School Board. Republican Pat Tillman is running unopposed so far in District 3. Democrat Michelle Bardsley has filed for District 5, which is currently represented by Darlene Garrett. Democrat Betty Jean Jenkins has filed for District 7, which is represented by Byron Gladden. Garrett and Gladden, who are also Democrats, have not indicated whether they plan to seek reelection.