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N.C. Voters Tip National Balance of Power

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North Carolina voters played a pivotal role in Tuesday’s midterm election, ultimately tipping the balance of power in our nation’s capital. Once the 2.9 million-plus votes were counted, Republican State House Speaker Thom Tillis had ousted incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in one of the closest and most expensive senatorial races in U.S. history. The unofficial results show Tillis winning by 48,258 votes. He joins at least six other freshman Republican senators from around the country, whose wins place both chambers of the United States Congress squarely in the hands of Republicans for the first time during President Obama’s tenure. Three Senate seats have yet to be called, including races in Alaska and Virginia, and in Louisiana, where voters will return to the polls in early December to make a final decision between incumbent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.

As a result of the November 4 General Election, North Carolina is now represented in Congress by 15 Republicans and 3 Democrats. Senator-elect Tillis joins fellow Republican Richard Burr in the U.S. Senate, while newcomers, Mark Walker (R-District 6) and former state Sen. David Rouzer (R-District 7), join returning GOP Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-District 2), Walter Jones (R-District 3), Virginia Foxx (R-District 5), Richard Hudson (R-District 8), Robert Pittenger (R-District 9), Patrick McHenry (R-District 10), Mark Meadows (R-District 11), and George Holding (R-District 13) in the U.S. House of Representatives. On the Democratic side, former state Rep. Alma Adams (D-District 12) joins returning incumbent House members G.K. Butterfield (D-District 1) and David Price (D-District 4).

In the North Carolina General Assembly, the GOP expanded its supermajority in the State Senate by one seat and will enjoy a 34-16 party advantage over Democrats when the 2015 General Assembly convenes in mid-January. Sen. Gene McLaurin (D-Richmond) was the only incumbent who failed to win reelection, losing to Republican challenger Tom McInnis in N.C. Senate District 25. One race remains within the margin for a potential recount. Presently, Republican John Alexander holds a 717-vote advantage over Democrat Tom Bradshaw in N.C. Senate District 15, a Wake County open seat.

In the North Carolina House, Democrats picked up a net of three seats, but the balance of power remains relatively unchanged with a 74-46 Republican advantage heading into 2015. Half of the 120 seats in the House were decided prior to November 4, because they were uncontested in the General Election. On Tuesday, Democrats managed to unseat four incumbent Republicans: Reps. Tim Moffit (R-Buncombe), Tom Murry (R-Wake), Nathan Ramsey (R-Buncombe), and Mike Stone (R-Lee). Meanwhile, Republicans picked up House District 2, after Republican Larry Yarborough defeated Democrat Ray Jeffers in an open seat formerly held by retiring Democrat Winkie Wilkins (D-Person).

While Republicans performed strongly in federal and state legislative contests, the outcome of state judicial races was mixed. Republican Chief Justice Mark Martin won reelection to the N.C. Supreme Court with nearly 73 percent of the vote. Justice Martin, who was appointed Chief Justice following the retirement of Justice Sarah Parker this past summer, will be adding another 8-year term to his tenure as the longest serving member currently on the state’s high court. According to unofficial results, Democrats captured each of the remaining three seats up for election on the Supreme Court. Incumbent Democrat Robin Hudson defended her seat against Republican challenger Eric Levinson; Democrat incumbent Cheri Beasley currently leads Republican Mike Robinson by roughly 3,200 votes, setting the stage for a possible recount; and Democratic challenger Sam J. Ervin, IV defeated Justice Bob Hunter, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by Governor Pat McCrory in September. Despite Democratic victories, a majority of the Supreme Court remains in Republican hands.

Voters also selected four judges for the N.C. Court of Appeals, including a “winner take all” 19-way contest created when Chief Judge John Martin retired from the court after the May 6 Primary Election. Incumbent GOP Judge Donna Stroud ran unopposed, and Democratic incumbent Judge Mark Davis defended his seat. Democrat Lucy Inman won in an open seat contest, and Republican former Court of Appeals Judge John M. Tyson handily took the 19-candidate contest with a 10-percent margin of victory over the second place finisher.

Finally, North Carolina voters approved an amendment the State Constitution to allow “a person accused of any criminal offense for which the State is not seeking a sentence of death in superior court [to], in writing or on the record in court and with the consent of the trial judge, waive the person’s right to a trial by jury.”

All in all, the 2014 General Election will be considered a significant victory for Republicans, not only on the state level, but on the federal level as well. It also secures North Carolina’s position as one of the most competitive states in the nation, and one of the most important and pivotal electoral landscapes for years to come.

 

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