Is it DOOM for Democrats in North Carolina?
Yes, if the turnout for early voting in NC’s May 6 primary is any indication. The top-of-the-ticket primary race in the Tar Heel state this year is the US Senate race. Incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan is facing only token primary opposition. On the Republican side, eight – count ‘em, eight – candidates are slugging it out to take on Hagan. The last time North Carolina had a Senate race at the top of the ticket in a non-presidential year was 2010. Uh oh.
That year, as we all know, was a Republican wave year. In North Carolina that year, in the general election, the Republicans reelected Senator Richard Burr, took control of the State Senate and State House for the first time since Reconstruction, and won five of six appellate judicial races in “nonpartisan” elections.
This year, there is a vulnerable Senate Democrat heading the ticket (Hagan), all members of the State Senate and House are up for election (and Republicans now have supermajorities in both houses), and seven appellate court judgeships are on the ballot. So, since it’s not November, why should Dems be worried about DOOM? Look at the early voting turnout for the May 6 primary.
Early voting started on April 24 for the May 6 primary. According to the Civitas Institute, a North Carolina conservative think tank, more than 180,000 voters (including absentee ballots) voted early in the 2010 primary. As of April 30 this year, more than 140,000 votes (not including absentee ballots) have been cast so far in early voting for the primary. That’s 33,412 more in-person, non-absentee votes than in 2010 at the same time during early voting (6 days prior to Election Day).
So far this year, Democrats compose 48 percent of all voters compared to 51 percent in the 2010 primary. Republicans make up 33 percent of primary voters this year and in 2010 made up 32 percent of primary voters. Unaffiliated voters were 17 percent of 2010 primary voters, and make up 19 percent so far this year.
Republicans and Democrats can only vote in their party’s primary. So far, 72,176 Democrats have voted and 82,490 Democratic ballots have been requested overall. As of 5/1/14, 50,591 Republicans have voted and 68,454 Republican ballots have been requested overall. As of 4/30/14, Democratic ballot requests are 54 percent and Republican 45 percent. In 2010, Democratic ballot requests were 58 percent and Republican 41 percent.
Why the difference? Unaffiliated voters, by state law, can vote in either party primary. So, Unaffiliated voters have, so far, requested Republican ballots over Democrat ballots at an almost 2-1 ratio. Civitas reports that the change in ballot requests by party are most likely due to the competitive Republican primary for the U.S. Senate race. Nationwide, polls show Unaffiliateds/Independents breaking Republican.
In sum: in this year’s primary featuring a U.S. Senate race at the top of the ticket as compared to a similar primary in 2010, more voters have voted, Democrats make up a lower percent of the electorate, Republicans make up a slightly higher percent of the electorate, Unaffiliateds make up a slightly higher percent of the electorate, and Unaffiliateds are breaking Republican by almost 2-1. If these results translate to November, then it is DOOM for the Democrats.
One final note: Republicans hold a tenuous 4-3 majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court. In North Carolina, judges run in “nonpartisan” elections. If 3 or more candidates file for a particular seat, all the candidates for that seat run in a “nonpartisan” primary, with the top 2 vote-getters moving on to November, regardless of party. Democrat incumbent Justice Robin Hudson is running (scared) in one of those “nonpartisan” primaries against two conservative Republicans, Jeanette Doran and Eric Levinson. It is very conceivable – and likely – that the Republicans could pick off a Supreme Court seat in the primary. Since the reforms instituted by the Republican legislature and governor – voter ID, redistricting, teacher tenure reform, school vouchers for low income families, the death penalty – have been gummed up in the state courts by liberals, the results of this “nonpartisan” judicial primary could spell more DOOM for Democrats come November.