North Carolina Republicans have withstood a massive effort by Democrats inside the state and nationally to retake both General Assembly chambers.
Election results on Tuesday night showed GOP candidates winning majorities in the 50-seat Senate and 120-seat House so the party could extend control for another two years and retain their conservative policy agenda. Democrats had been on a multimillion-dollar spending push to win several additional seats in each chamber and flip power.
The GOP majorities mean Republicans will be able in 2021 to redraw legislative and congressional districts for the next decade based on new census figures. Republicans controlled redistricting in the 2010s. Their maps were almost continuously in court after Democrats and their allies filed lawsuits.
Despite several races in each chamber still uncalled due to close, unofficial results, Republicans have won 27 seats in the Senate and 67 in the House. The N.C. House was seen as a harder win for the Democrats.
More could be won by the GOP, but Republicans are unlikely to obtain veto-proof majorities that they held from 2013 to 2018. That means Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who won reelection Tuesday, will be able to continue to use his veto to check the GOP's legislative activities, as he has for the past two years.
While nearly all of the 170 seats up for reelection on Tuesday were contested races, House and Senate control essentially came down to five races in the Senate and about twice that many House races. Republicans won most of those races. Republicans have held a 65-55 advantage in the House and 29-21 in the Senate.
Democrats had hoped to pick up enough seats to win the Senate, but in the early hours Wednesday morning it appeared their plan would not pan out. In the Senate, Republicans held on to closely competitive seats currently held by Republicans like Bob Steinburg of Chowan County and Joyce Krawiec of Forsyth County. In the House, Republican challengers unseated at least five Democratic incumbents, four of whom were in the first term — Reps. Sydney Batch of Wake County, Christy Clark of Mecklenburg County, Scott Brewer of Richmond County and Ray Russell of Watauga County.
If election night results hold, Democrats would pick up just two seats. In District 39 in Mecklenburg, Democrat DeAndrea Salvador led Republican Joshua Niday 62% to 38% with all precincts reporting. In District 18 in northwestern Wake County, Democrat Sarah Crawford led Republican Larry Norman with 52% to 44.5%, with all precincts reporting.
The GOP have held majorities since 2011. Its members spent the decade advancing a conservative agenda of reducing taxes and regulations, creating taxpayer-funded scholarships for K-12 private schoolchildren and strengthening abortion restrictions. They also passed several voting restriction laws, but many were overturned by courts.
“Voters returning a strong Republican majority to the North Carolina House of Representatives ... reflects the powerful momentum behind policies that promote economic prosperity, educational achievement and safety for families," House Speaker Tim Moore said in a news release.
The Republican redraw of the lines in 2011 allowed the GOP to expand seat margins two years later. Democrats and their allies sued Republicans repeatedly over the lines during the decade. Courts ultimately declared the districts both racial and partisan gerrymanders, and by 2018 redrawn lines contributed to Democrats winning enough seats so that Republican majorities were no longer veto-proof.
In North Carolina, the governor does not have veto power over redistricting bills, so Republicans can draw maps without Gov. Cooper being able to potentially veto the maps.
Cooper also sued GOP lawmakers, with mixed success, over attempts by Republicans to weaken his powers. Senate leader Phil Berger said he hoped for “a departure from the divisive partisan lawsuits that have hamstrung attempts at good faith negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in the legislature and the executive branch.”
In 2020, national Democratic political groups and allies on issues such as gun control also spent millions of dollars in North Carolina on contributions and independent expenditures to help more Democrats win.