There has been a lot of anticipation surrounding this year’s election. With record levels of inflation, the increasing advancement of the LGBTQ agenda, and the Dobbs decision returning decisions about abortion to the states, many political pundits predicted many had been predicting a “red tsunami” heavily favoring major Republican victories across the country. Now that the results are in, we can start to get a glimpse at what the future might hold for us politically.
This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes NC Family’s President, John Rustin, and NC Family’s Counsel and Director of Community Impact, Jere Royall, to discuss the outcomes of the 2022 election and the implications it may have for North Carolina going forward.
So how did the election results turn out? Rustin summarizes them, saying, “The big takeaway is that we were hearing that there might be a big red tsunami that Republicans were going to win seats hand over fist all across the nation, and that simply did not happen. However, they did pick up seats in the U.S. House but also quite a few very important seats in North Carolina.”
While many of the races did not reflect a ‘red tsunami,’ the state judicial races did give Republicans a significant advantage. The GOP won two seats on the state Supreme Court, giving Republicans a 5-2 advantage. Royall explains that this will be especially important for ongoing cases relating to school choice, the funding of schools, and election laws. He adds, “Another very important issue that could be before the court relates to the sanctity of human life and what possible legislation will be passed by the state legislature, such as a heartbeat bill, could end up before the state Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. So these elections could make a very big difference in the outcome of some of our state’s laws.”
Even though the votes are cast and the election is done, our job doesn’t stop there. The North Carolina Senate won enough seats to have a veto-proof supermajority, but the North Carolina House of Representatives fell one seat shy of a supermajority. As a result, Republicans will have to work with Democrats in order to overturn a veto in the North Carolina House. In light of this, Rustin ends with an encouragement for citizens, “To be involved and engaged and to reach out and communicate with their legislators about issues that they care about.”
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. The 2022 election season is wrapping up, and federal and state governments are preparing for an influx of new members in January. Today, I’m joined by John Rustin, President of the North Carolina Family Policy Council.
JOHN RUSTIN: Hey, Traci.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: And North Carolina Family Counsel and Director of Community Impact, Jere Royall.
JERE ROYALL: Hello, Traci.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: And we’re going to discuss what we know at least for now about the results of the 2022 election, especially here in North Carolina. Of course, we’re recording this two days after the elections and there are still some of the races up in the air, but what kind of general idea do you have about how things went this year, John?
JOHN RUSTIN: Yeah. Well, Traci, I think the big takeaway is that we were hearing that there might be a big red tsunami that Republicans were going to win seats hand-over-fist all across the nation, and that simply did not happen. However, they did pick up seats in the U.S. House but also quite a few very important seats in North Carolina.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right. Well, let’s talk about the federal level first. What about the U.S. Senate, what happened there?
JOHN RUSTIN: Well, of course, we had a very competitive race here in North Carolina against Ted Budd, a current member of the U.S. House, and Cheri Beasley, who was a former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. We knew this race was going to be very close, and it was. Ultimately, Ted Budd won that race by just about 3.5 percentage points, so it definitely lived up to its billing to be a close race. I know that polls and information that I saw going into the election were suggesting that Budd might win by 4 to 6 percentage points, so he didn’t quite get that degree of victory but still won fairly handily in such a competitive race.
When we look at the U.S. Senate overall, currently there is a 50/50 split with Democrats, who actually have two independents who vote with them typically in the U.S. Senate and then 50 Republicans, and then our vice president, Kamala Harris, can cast the tie-breaking vote. Well, there are still at least three seats that are up and undecided as of this point. There’s going to be a runoff in Georgia, and Arizona and Nevada are still too close to call. So we could end up with either a one-seat difference or even a tie again and have the vice president be the tiebreaker for very close votes in the Senate.
JERE ROYALL: And that Georgia race where there will be a runoff is going to be still about a month from now. So it’s still going to be a while before we know the final outcome of the balance in the Senate.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Okay. Let’s talk about the U.S. House. What’s notable there?
JOHN RUSTIN: Well, because of population growth, North Carolina picked up a 14th Congressional District so it’s interesting that this election our congressional delegation or the seats that we have in Congress will be split, seven Republicans and seven Democrats. incumbent Republicans Dan Bishop, Virginia Foxx, Richard Hudson, Patrick McHenry, Greg Murphy and David Rouzer successfully defended their seats, as did incumbent Democrats Alma Adams, Kathy Manning, and Debra Ross. And then it’s interesting to note that we’ve got five new members of our congressional delegation all of whom are members of the North Carolina Senate right now, and those include Democrats Don Davis, Valerie Foushee, Jeff Jackson, and Wiley Nickel and also Republican Chuck Edwards. So all of these members are moving from the North Carolina Senate up to Washington, DC, to represent us in Congress. When we look at Congress as a whole, as of the time that we’re having this discussion, only 393 of the 435 U.S. House races have been decided, 208 of those for Republicans and 185 for Democrats, so that leaves 42 seats that are too close to call or undecided as of yet. And either party needs 218 seats for a majority in the U.S. House, so Republicans are just ten seats away and it’s very likely that they’re going to capture a majority in the U.S. House. So it’s going to be interesting to watch those remaining seats as those races ultimately are called.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Okay. Well, let’s move to the state level. You mentioned that there was not the red wave that might have been expected on the federal level, but at least in the state judicial races there was.
JOHN RUSTIN: Well, yes, Republicans swept the six races that were on the ballot, two for the Supreme Court and four for the state Court of Appeals, and the margin of victory was at least five percentage points that Republicans won by in each of those races. So we saw Republican Richard Dietz defeat Democrat Lucy Inman for the Supreme Court and also challenger Republican Trey Allen defeated incumbent Sam Ervin both to gain seats on the North Carolina Supreme Court. This is really important and significant because it gives Republicans a 5-2 advantage on the state’s highest court. Before the election, Democrats had a 4-3 advantage on the Supreme Court.
JERE ROYALL: And one reason this was especially important is some of the issues that have been before the Supreme Court and will continue to be. One of those is an ongoing case or a couple of cases relating to education, one with school choice and one with funding of schools in North Carolina, and then election laws are going to be another issue that will continue to be before the Court, some with redistricting, which will mean possibly that the elections two years from now could be very different because district lines could once again change. And then another very important issue that could be before the court relates to the sanctity of human life and what possible legislation will be passed by the state legislature such as a heartbeat bill could end up before the state Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. So these elections could make a very big difference in the outcome of some of our state’s laws.
JOHN RUSTIN: And, of course, our current chief justice on the state Supreme Court, Paul Newby, is a Republican. So he’s been working in the seat of chief justice with a 4-3 Democratic majority, which has been interesting I’m sure for him, but now he is going to have a court that is 5-2 Republican that is his own party. And so, again, I think this is very significant. A lot of left-leaning causes and interests because they have been unable to get things done in the legislature have gone to the courts to try to get their position imposed on some of these issues. That avenue for them is going to be presumably less likely now with a Republican majority on the Supreme Court. And so it’s going to just be very interesting to see how things develop as these new justices are seated. Also, it is important to note that on the state Court of Appeals that Republicans Donna Stroud and John Tyson defended their seats, which were up for election, and then Republicans Julee Tate Flood and Michael Stading won open-seat races, so they are Republicans as well and will be joining our state Court of Appeals.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: You know we here at the Family Policy Council have said for years, I mean we drummed this into a lot of the work that we do, is that these judicial races are vital, and it certainly appears that people got the message.
Jere, you’re an attorney, and you keep up with what’s going on out there with the North Carolina Bar and other things. Do you feel like this will have a trickle-down effect? Does it make a difference in all of the state government agencies that there’s a difference here on the high court in our state?
JERE ROYALL: Well, I think in some people’s minds and maybe a lot of people’s minds, it will definitely make a difference because people continue to say the role of the court is not to make laws. It’s to interpret the laws, apply the laws, and there have been a couple of rulings in recent months where some people’s response has been the court has overstepped its boundaries and has taken on a legislative role, which it is not supposed to take. And so just as you’re saying it’s always made a difference, but especially in recent history we’ve seen it make a difference. So I think a lot of people think that the new make-up of the court hopefully won’t lead to situations where people feel like the court has stepped outside of its role and has become an activist court. And even in our voter guide the responses that a lot of these candidates had was they understood what their role is. I want to believe that is, in fact, what they will do now that they’re elected as new judges of our Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Okay.
JOHN RUSTIN: And, Traci, I’d just add one other important thing to note on this as well, which is that our judges serve staggered eight-year terms, and it’s my understanding that with this 5-2 majority that the next seats on the state Supreme Court that are up for election do not come up for six years. And so this 5-2 majority if the membership of the Supreme Court stays the same will be in place for at least six years. So there’s a pretty significant road ahead for these new justices.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Right. Okay. Interesting.
JOHN RUSTIN: One final note, I know we’ve already pointed out how just in recent time the makeup of the court has changed. It wasn’t too long ago that Justice Newby was the only Republican on the Court and there were six Democrats. Now, again, that’s not supposed to make a difference in how they rule whether you’re Democrat or Republican, but the reality has been it has, I think made a difference. So it’s going to be interesting to see the differences in outcomes of different legal questions that come before the Court now.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Yes, it will. All right. Well, let’s talk about what kind of changes we’re going to see from the elections on North Carolina’s legislature starting with how about the North Carolina Senate?
JOHN RUSTIN: Well, in the North Carolina Senate going into the election Republicans held 28 of the 50 seats in the Senate. The threshold for a veto-proof supermajority where the members of the legislature can override the governor’s veto is 30 seats out of the 50 seats in the Senate. So Republicans were two seats short of a veto-proof supermajority going into the election. And guess what — they picked up those two additional seats, it appears, based on unofficial results from the election. So coming out of the elections, it appears that Republicans now hold 30 seats in the 50-member Senate. And that gives them the votes that they need if the Republican caucus votes as a block to override the governor’s veto. There were a lot of races in competitive territory, a lot of incumbent Republicans who really had to defend their seats, and most of those did so successfully. And there were some Democrats, too, like Sydney Batch in Wake County who defended her seat in a very hotly contested race. So of the 50 Senate races, there were 11 that we identified that were really competitive, that were the real opportunities for the balance of power to possibly shift were the supermajority to be gained by Republicans. So Republicans definitely pulled it out in the Senate and were able to capture 30 seats to get that veto-proof supermajority.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right. Let’s talk about the North Carolina House. What happened there?
JOHN RUSTIN: Well, similar to the Senate, going into the election Republicans held 69 of the 120 seats. The veto-proof majority threshold in the House is 72, so Republicans were three seats short of a veto-proof supermajority. As of the unofficial results of the election, Republicans appear to have taken 71 seats, so just one seat shy of a supermajority. So this is really interesting because they did not win the supermajority or that it doesn’t appear that they won the supermajority, Republicans as a caucus will have to find a handful of Democrats to cross the aisle to vote with them in order to override the governor’s veto. How possible that is how probable that is, is very much up in the air. I think it will depend on issues. It will depend upon the dynamics and politics of how the Republican caucus and some of those friendly members within the Democratic caucus sort of play during the session, and so it brings a big question mark in but it’s also a real opportunity for Republicans to reach across the aisle and to find allies within the Democratic caucus on various issues. For the last two year have been unable to override any vetoes by Governor Roy Cooper. Now that opportunity is closer.
JERE ROYALL: And there are certain issues where we have seen some Democrats who have voted with Republicans. There are two areas that come to mind. One is school choice, and another is the area of the sanctity of human life, but as John said, it will be a matter of if there is a veto for Democrats to work together with Republicans to override in those specific areas as well as any others that may come up.
JOHN RUSTIN: And, Traci, I would just share I think the big takeaway from this is that it is so important for citizens to be involved and engaged and to reach out and communicate with their legislators about issues that they care about because in the state Senate Republicans have just enough votes to override the veto. And some of the issues that are likely to be vetoed if they pass the legislature are pro-life legislation like a heartbeat bill that would prohibit abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. We will have school choice issues. North Carolina is one of the leading states in the nation for school choice. Governor Cooper has stated his position that he wants to do away completely with North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program. There are other parental rights issues that deal with human sexuality and LGBTQ issues, and so there are going to be some really significant issues that come up for consideration during this next legislative session, and because the margins are so close in both the Senate and the House concerned citizens across the state have got to stay engaged, have got to express their interest and concerns to their legislators because that’s going to make a huge difference and it could shift the balance and encourage those few members that we need to cross the so-called line to do so, not only in order to get this legislation passed but then to override the governor’s almost certain veto on these critically important issues.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right. Well, that’s a good final word, and I just want to thank you. You guys have been listening to John Rustin, President of the North Carolina Family Policy Counsel and NC Family Counsel and Director of Community Impact, Jere Royall. Thanks for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.
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