North Carolina, a state historically controlled by Democrats and a notorious swing state in presidential elections, is turning a deeper shade of red. This trend, which was first noticeable in the General Assembly in 2010, is expected to continue as a new Republican governor and lieutenant governor slated to be elected next Tuesday.
With the GOP set to make a strong showing in a swing state in a closely contested presidential race, many eyes are turning to North Carolina as a harbinger for the future of the GOP in the final days before the election.
Republicans made history on Election Day in 2010 as they gained control of the state’s legislature for the first time in more than a century. Before then, the last time that Republicans held a majority in the state Senate was in 1898. Currently, the makeup of the entire legislature is at 67 Republicans and 52 Democrats. Republicans are expected to retain most of their seats in 2012, and many are predicting that the GOP will widen its majority.
Pat McCrory (R-NC), former mayor of Charlotte, is expected to win the race for Governor as he is outpolling Walter Dalton(D-NC) by 17 points. Dalton is the current Lieutenant Governor under retiring Governor Bev Perdue (D-NC). Perdue has faced sharp criticism during her term as the state economy has suffered along with education. One of her most unpopular proposals was to pay for education with a steep sales tax increase. McCrory, who is very popular among both Democrats and Republicans in the state, has called for a government “more responsive to business” as well as a modernized tax code, an expansion of North Carolina’s energy resources, and a support of key industries in the state instead of implementing more regulations against them.
A win for McCrory could spell good news for the future of the North Carolina GOP – if McCrory wins next Tuesday, he will become the state’s first Republican Governor since 1993 when James G. Martin left office. In fact, McCrory would be only the third Republican to hold the office since 1901.
And the battle for Lieutenant Governor has been heating up as Republican Dan Forest (R-NC), President and Senior Partner of the state’s largest architectural firm, seeks to become the first Republican to hold the office since 1993 and only the second since 1901. On the opposing ticket sits Linda Coleman (D-NC), former state legislator and Director of the Office of State Personnel. Forest, like McCrory, has been extremely welcomed by Republicans in the state as he has called for “small government, low taxes, and free enterprise.” Forest has also been very outspoken on social issues, advocating for the traditional view of marriage and the sanctity of human life.
It is North Carolina’s shift from a battleground state to being overwhelmingly placed in the Romney column in 2012 that has pundits talking. In the 2008 presidential election, the state was decided by fewer than 14,000 votes with Barack Obama winning the state 49.9 percent to McCain’s 49.5 percent. Democrats once again saw the state as a key to victory on their way to retaining the White House as they decided to hold their National Convention in the state’s largest city, Charlotte, this year.
However, the sentiment of North Carolinians has changed in 2012. Facing a sour economy and a lack of a recovery, the state is edging towards Romney as Election Day nears. The Governor is polling upwards of 5 points higher than the President.
In a state historically dominated by Democrats, voters are trending towards the Republican Party as the GOP could control the seat of Governor and Lieutenant Governor as well as the state legislature for the first time in more than a century. It is clear that voters have become disillusioned with Democratic policies that have failed to generate productivity, stifled growth, and contrast with the socially conservative values of the majority of the state. Just as Democrats controlled the last century in North Carolina politics, Republicans could be establishing a firm hold on the state for many years to come.