Democrats watched their dream of retaking control of the North Carolina legislature evaporate on election night.
Democrat Terri LeGrand, who had hoped to unseat Republican incumbent Joyce Krawiec in Senate District 31, retreated into a side room during a watch party in Winston-Salem attended by a handful of glum staffers. When early votes and absentee ballots were counted shortly after the polls closed, Krawiec was up by one point, but as election-day votes came in, Krawiec wound up with a 6-point lead.
After LeGrand’s campaign manager announced she would be making no statement, the candidate could be heard on a phone call ticking off one state legislative race after another that didn’t go in her party’s direction.
“This is not a good night for Democrats in North Carolina,” she said.
State election results provided a remarkably static result, with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper winning a second term by a healthy margin against Republican challenger Dan Forest, signaling that voters support Cooper’s cautious approach to the COVID pandemic over Forest’s demands to reopen the state more quickly.
Forest gave up his position as lieutenant governor to run against Cooper. A polished far-right politician with close ties to the Christian right, Forest will be replaced by Mark Robinson, the first African-American to hold the office and also a right-wing populist and Second Amendment proponent beloved among conservatives for his propensity to heap scorn on progressives, the news media and Black Lives Matter.
Senate District 31, which combines the eastern end of Forsyth County with Davie County, was considered a pivotal race for Democrats, who needed a net gain of five seats to take the majority.
As predicted Democrats picked up two Senate seats — District 18 in the Raleigh suburbs, and District 39 in Mecklenburg County — but narrowly lost the District 9 seat in Wilmington, resulting in a net gain of one seat.
District 27, a doughnut around Greensboro, was considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic-held seats, since Michael Garrett swiped it from Republican Trudy Wade in 2018. But Garrett handily defended it against Republican Sebastian King, prevailing 54.3 percent to 45.7 percent.
In District 24, covering Alamance County and the eastern end of Guilford County, Democrat JD Wooten over-performed against expectations, with 47.5 percent of the vote, but fell short to Republican Amy Galey, who currently chairs the Alamance County Commission.
Democrats Gladys Robinson and Paul Lowe, who respectively represent District 28 Greensboro and District 32 in Winston-Salem, won reelection by wide margins, as did Republican incumbent David Craven in District 26, covering Randolph County and parts of High Point.
In state House races, where Democrats needed six seats to retake the majority, Republicans appear to have made a net gain of four seats, flipping six Democrat-held seats, while Democrats appear to have flipped two Republican seats. The two Democratic pickups took place in District 63 in Alamance County and District 9 in Pitt County. In District 9, Democrat Brian Farkas prevailed over Republican Perrin Jones, and in District 63, Democrat Ricky Hurtado led Republican Stephen Ross by less than a 1 point. But Hurtado’s election night success is tenuous: It’s within the margin that Ross may request a recount.
In two Triad races that were also on the “pivotal” to Democrats — required for them to take control of the chamber, Democratic challengers fell short against Republican incumbents. In District 59 in Guilford County, Republican Majority Whip Jon Hardister bested Democrat Nicole Quick, 52.3 percent to 47.7 percent, while in District 74 in Forsyth County, Republican Jeff Zenger defeated Democrat Dan Besse. Zenger, a former Lewisville Town Council member, earned 51.6 percent of the vote, compared to the 48.8 percent garnered by Besse, a Winston-Salem City Council member.
The Republicans’ success at defending their majority means they will control the process or redrawing district lines for their own state legislative seats, along with North Carolina’s congressional districts.
The results in the remaining Triad House races were no surprise given the partisan skew of the districts, with easy victories by Democrats Ashton Clemmons in District 57, Amos Quick in District 58, Cecil Brockman in District 60, and by Republicans John Faircloth in District 62, Donny Lambeth in District 75 and Lee Zachary in District 73. Democrat Amber Baker prevailed in the contest for the District 72 seat vacated by Derwin Montgomery. Democrats Pricey Harrison and Evelyn Terry ran unopposed in District 61 and District 71, respectively.
In the attorney general race, Democrat incumbent Josh Stein eked out a razor-thin lead over Republican Jim O’Neil, who currently serves as district attorney in Forsyth County. Stein won 50.1 percent of the vote, compared to 49.9 percent by O’Neil, well within the margin to request a recount.
Democrat incumbent Beth A. Wood defeated Republican Anthony Wayne Street, 50.85 percent to 49.15 percent, in the state auditor’s race.
Republican Steve Troxler easily defeated Democrat Jenna Wadsworth in the race for commissioner of agriculture.
Mike Causey, the Republican incumbent in the commissioner of insurance race, outpaced Democrat Wayne Goodwin, 51.8 percent to 48.2 percent.
In the open contest for commissioner of labor, Republican Josh Dobson narrowly defeated Jessica Holmes, 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent.
The open contest for superintendent of public instruction also favored the Republican candidate, with Catherine Truitt defeating Jen Mangrum, 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent.
Democrat Elaine Marshall held her position as secretary of state against Republican EC Sykes, 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent.
Republican Dale Folwell won reelection as his treasurer, defending the office against Democrat Ronnie Chatterji.
In the race for the state Supreme Court Chief Justice seat, Republican Paul Newby narrowly led Democratic incumbent Cheri Beasley, 50.04 percent to 49.96 percent, well within the margin to request a recount.
Republicans also prevailed in the two other supreme court races, with Phil Berger Jr. winning election to Seat 2 and Tamara Barringer prevailing in the race for Seat 4.
Republicans swept all five court of appeals judgeship seats, with April C. Wood winning Seat 4, Fred Gore winning Seat 5, Chris Dillon winning Seat 6, Jeff Carpenter winning Seat 7 and Jefferson C. Griffin winning Seat 13.
All results are unofficial until certified during the final canvass on Nov. 12.