by Dr. Andy Jackson
Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, John Locke Foundation
Court-drawn congressional maps and a Democratic-friendly state House map limit Republican gains
The 2022 election was good for Republicans in North Carolina, as a red wave swept them to victory. There were seven statewide races: U.S. Senate and six judicial races. Republicans won all of them. This gives the GOP a supermajority in the Senate (giving the party enough votes to override vetoes).
It was not a slam dunk for Republicans, however. A congressional map designed to protect Democrats performed as intended, and a Democratic-friendly North Carolina House map helped prevent Republicans from getting a supermajority there.
A review of the North Carolina State Board of Elections (SBE) results dashboard finds that Republicans won all seven statewide races.
(Results are unofficial, and some mail ballots remain to be counted, but there are not enough remaining ballots to alter the results in any statewide races.)
Tedd Budd won the U.S. Senate race 50.7-47.1%.
As seen in the two screenshots from the SBE results dashboard below, Republicans also won every statewide judicial race. They will have a 5-2 majority in the next session of the North Carolina Supreme Court and will expand their current majority in North Carolina Court of Appeals judgeships.
Unlike the 2018 Democratic sweep of the four statewide judicial elections, Republicans won majorities in every race. Two of the Democratic victories in 2018 happened in races where the vote was split between Republican candidates.
With those seven victories, Republicans have won 46 of 74 statewide elections (62.2%) going back to 2012, according to data from the SBE.
This was our take on a congressional district map a court imposed last February:
[The court-draw congressional map] is also more favorable to Democrats than you would expect from a map drawn without using partisan data to benefit one party. Dr. Jowei Chen, an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the case that led to the original congressional map being overturned, found that the most likely outcome for a map drawn using politically neutral criteria was 9-5 Republican (see pages 32-33 of Chen’s report).
Other experts also found that the court-drawn districts “would have more safe seats for Democratic candidates, and fewer tossup seats than the map the Republican-led legislature had drawn.” But 2022 is shaping up to be a “red wave” election year. Whatever the intent of the special masters who drew North Carolina’s congressional districts, the effect of their effort is a Democratic protection plan that will likely spare them from the worst of an expected red wave this fall.
Republicans could have still taken an 8-6 advantage in congressional seats if they had won the 13th District in the Research Triangle area. It is rated D+1, but a strong Republican candidate would have been able to take advantage of the red wave to win there.
Bo Hines was not that candidate. He had shopped around for several districts across the state before deciding to run in the 13th and his lack of connections to the area almost certainly cost him votes.
Figure 1: The court-draw “Interim Congressional” map
Source: North Carolina General Assembly
The General Assembly will redraw congressional districts next year. That will invite another lawsuit, which will be decided by the new Republican majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court
In keeping with the generally good news for Republicans, they won 30 seats in the North Carolina Senate, barely the 60% they need for a supermajority.
To gain that supermajority, Republicans had to win all four districts across the state rated toss-up in the Civitas Partisan Index and at least two districts that lean Democratic. Lisa Stone Barnes won in a D+2 district, and Bobby Hanig was elected in a D+5 district. The super-majority was not just handed to them.
I wrote the following about the North Carolina House districts the General Assembly approved last February:
The remedial House map (Figure 2) is 63-57 Republican, a shift of eight seats towards the Democrats compared to the 71-49 House map enacted by the General Assembly in November. That outcome is friendlier to Democrats than what Magleby wrote is the most likely outcome of House maps drawn using neutral redistricting criteria, a 68-52 Republican map.
Figure 2. Remedial North Carolina House district map
Source: North Carolina General Assembly
You could be forgiven for thinking that the minority Democrats wrote the remedial map with an outcome like that. To a large extent, they did. Democrats offered seven amendments to change the map, and Republicans joined them in approving six of them.
Many of the Republican sacrifices were in larger counties, such as Wake, Mecklenburg, and Guilford, where the remedial map added more urban precincts to Republican-leaning suburban districts.
Republicans swept the toss-up House districts (as rated in the Civitas Partisan Index) and won in the following Democratic-leaning districts
District 5: Bill Ward (D+2)
District 9: Timothy Reeder (D+3)
District 24: Ken Fontenot (D+2)
District 25: Allen Chesser (D+3)
District 32: Frank Sossamon (D+7) — rated likley Democratic
District 59: Jon Hardister (D+2)
District 63: Stephen Ross (D+3)
While it is no guarantee of future success, Republicans in North Carolina had a very good election in 2022.