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Today Is Super Tuesday. Here Are 5 Questions About NC's Role In The 2020 Election

Erik Hersman

It’s Super Tuesday and North Carolina is one of 14 states that is holding a primary election today. Up for grabs are 110 pledged delegates in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. WUNC's Capitol Bureau Chief Jeff Tiberii recaps 5 fundamental questions surrounding the 2020 election in N.C.

Why is 2020 considered such a big election year for N.C.?

In the past couple of months I’ve spoken to strategists, lawmakers and political scientists who have described our state as “ground zero” for the 2020 election. One way to think about it is like this – North Carolina has races for president, governor, and U.S. Senate on the ballot this year. Only four other states – Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, West Virginia – are also holding all three of those races.

But, no offense to those states, North Carolina is just more nationally relevant. It’s a presidential swing state, the U.S. Senate race is expected to be one of the most competitive and expensive in the country, and just four years ago the state’s gubernatorial contest was decided by fewer than 11,000 votes. 

The last time voters here were deciding on president, U.S. Senate, governor and redistricting authority at the state legislature was back in 1980. While the state has emerged as a presidential battleground and an occasional litmus test for what is happening at statehouses across the country, this is still pretty rare. 

What are some of the important “down ballot” races to watch?

As is the case every two years, U.S. House seats are on the ballot. So all 13 of the state’s congressional offices are up. What makes it even more interesting is that we had an unscheduled round of redistricting last fall, because the districts were extreme partisan gerrymanders. 

North Carolina is actually the only state in the country which has new districts being run on in 2020. As a result of the new maps, two newly drawn districts – the 2nd Congressional District in Wake County and 6th in the Piedmont Triad – are favorable to Democrats. That means by Wednesday morning we could know the next U.S. House Representative from those areas.

In what other ways do North Carolina’s shifting maps play into this election? 

The North Carolina General Assembly has 50 Senate seats and 120 House districts. And believe it or not some of these districts were also redrawn last fall. That came after a panel of three state judges ruled the current boundaries are unconstitutionally gerrymandered along partisan lines. 

The legislative races have an added level of importance because the census is taking place this year. That means whichever party has control of the House and Senate next year gets to draw the next set of congressional and legislative districts.

What’s happening with judicial races this year?

The state Supreme Court has seven justices. And three of those seats are on the ballot this year. However, none of the primaries is contested. So we’ve actually known the general election match-ups for a couple of months.

Will things quiet down for a bit after the primary election? 

Perhaps a little. However, the presidential candidates are likely to continue visiting our state throughout the spring and summer. And, we’re actually expecting a second – or runoff – primary in several races. In most races, candidates can win outright and move onto the general if they receive more than 30% of the vote. In races with only two or three candidates, that is likely. In contests with a lot of hopefuls – like the twelve running for Congress in the 11th District – it is quite possible no candidate reaches the necessary threshold. In the event that the top finisher is under 30%, the second place finisher can call for a runoff.


Jeff Tiberii covers politics for WUNC. Before that, he served as the station's Greensboro Bureau Chief.
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