RALEIGH — Nearly 60 percent of North Carolina voters cast ballots to give Republicans control of the General Assembly for the first time in more than a century. John Locke Foundation President John Hood says that’s just one sign of the strength of conservative candidates and issues in Tuesday’s election.
“It was clear relatively early on Election Night that Republicans were going to pick up enough seats to flip the tables on Democrats and hold substantial majorities in both legislative chambers,” Hood said. “What’s clear now is that the district-by-district results fit with a general theme of voters throwing overwhelming support to conservative candidates.”
Of more than 2.46 million votes cast in state Senate races, 1.45 million voters (59 percent) chose Republicans, while 1 million selected Democrats. The percentages were the same in state House races, where 1.41 million North Carolinians voted Republican, compared to 970,000 who voted for Democrats.
“Basically, three out of every five North Carolina voters decided they wanted an alternative to the overspending, intrusive regulation, and high-tax policies they’ve come to expect from long-time rule by the party in power,” Hood said.
Speaking of taxes, voters in 14 counties said “no” to higher local sales taxes. The proposal to add 0.25 cents to the local sales-tax rate failed everywhere it appeared on a North Carolina ballot, from Cherokee County in the west to Columbus County in the east.
“Of more than 326,000 ballots cast in these sales-tax referendums, more than 60 percent of voters said ‘no,'” Hood said. “In half of the counties, the ‘no’ votes topped 70 percent.”
Cherokee County voters registered the greatest opposition (83 percent) to a local sales-tax increase. The issue fared best in Guilford and Orange counties, where 51 percent of voters said no.
Also close to home, Republicans gained majorities of about a half dozen boards of county commissioners across the state, including Wake County. “The conservative wave was about more than just legislative seats and tax votes,” Hood said. “Conservative candidates at every level benefited from voters’ rejection of big-government solutions to our state’s and our communities’ ongoing economic and budget problems.”
While North Carolina Republicans have the most reasons to celebrate, a limited-government conservative perspective also helped some Democrats, especially those serving in the state’s congressional delegation, Hood said.
“Look at the results in the congressional districts that pundits and prognosticators targeted as the most likely to flip from Democratic to Republican control,” he explained. “Mike McIntyre in the 7th District, Larry Kissell in the 8th, and Heath Shuler in the 11th all faced strong challenges. But each survived that challenge. It’s no coincidence that each of these three representatives has taken public stances against much of President Obama’s agenda, including ObamaCare.”
The only congressional incumbent who appears likely to lose his seat is Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-2nd District. “Etheridge voted for ObamaCare and has been less likely than some of his colleagues to oppose the agenda set by President Obama and the outgoing U.S. House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi,” Hood said. “Etheridge appears to have paid the highest political price for ignoring popular opposition to that national Democratic Party agenda.”
Election-night winners should learn some clear lessons, Hood said. “Voters did not decide simply to trade one team of big-government supporters for another, with new names and faces,” he said. “This vote marked a clear statement that voters want a real alternative to the government policies that lead to anemic economic growth, recurring budget holes, and the constant plea with taxpayers to part with more of their hard-earned money.”