EDITORIAL: In the NC election rising tide lifts some boats

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Griffith Fire Station, a Democratic-leaning precinct on the Davidson county line with a large pool of unaffiliated voters, tilted towards Clinton. (photo by Jordan Green)

The lull between the NC election results and attempts from each of the competing parties to claim victory is a good time to sift through the data.

Trumpers will point to a Republican gain in the Senate of two seats as proof of their prowess. But the blue wave gave Democrats 26 more seats in the House, enough for a majority, with scores of women, minorities and first-time candidates headed to Washington DC in January. Democrats picked up seven more governorships around the country as well, flipping Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, New Mexico and Kansas, and Democrat Ned Lamont predicted to turn Connecticut.

But in gerrymandered North Carolina, the blue wave crashed on rocky shores with mixed results.

No US House seats were flipped here, and our senators were not up for re-election. But on the state level, Democrats were able to eliminate Republican veto-proof supermajorities in both the House and Senate. We elected a new NC Supreme Court justice, too — Anita Earls, expanding the Democrat majority on the court..

Ironically, Earls was one of the loudest voices against voter ID efforts in the state, but the same electorate that gave her a place on the Supreme Court also chose to add voter ID to the state constitution.

These things don’t always make sense.

The sheriff’s races were a different story. Both of our counties ousted longtime Republican sheriffs by healthy margins: BJ Barnes, who was first elected in Guilford on the red midterm wave of 1994, lost by 5 points; Bill Schatzman, who was elected in Forsyth in 2002, lost by almost 7 points.

Counties themselves cannot be gerrymandered or split, however: A countywide election by definition includes everybody and there is nowhere to hide for a sheriff who must get votes in every precinct, both urban and rural.

The new sheriffs, Danny Rogers in Guilford and Bobby Kimbrough in Forsyth, seemed to benefit from another undercurrent in this election. It was a night of firsts: Two Muslim women became the first to be elected to Congress. Colorado elected the country’s first openly-gay governor. We have two Native American women in Congress for the first time. Young people, women and people of color broke barriers across our nation.

Kimbrough and Rogers are both black, and each will be the first black sheriff in his county. In Guilford particularly, where not too many people can remember life before BJ Barnes, the shift is seismic.

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