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To Break Super Majority, NC Dems Look To Usually Conservative South Charlotte

Democratic candidates for the North Carolina House and Senate speak at a fundraiser at Free Range Brewing in NoDa.
Steve Harrison
Democratic candidates for the North Carolina House and Senate speak at a fundraiser at Free Range Brewing in NoDa.

If North Carolina Democrats win either four state House seats or six Senate seats, they break the Republicans “super majority” in the General Assembly.

That super majority has allowed the GOP to do almost whatever it wants, giving it a veto-proof majority over Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

The Democrats believe two of their best chances are in two House districts in south Charlotte — the only House seat held by Republican incumbents that went for Hillary Clinton.

At a fundraiser last week at Free Range Brewing in NoDa, North Carolina State Sen. Jeff Jackson told party loyalists they can win, although they are campaigning in districts historically held by Republicans.

During the fundraiser, most candidates gave standard stump speeches about issues like education. Wesley Harris, a Democratic candidate for District 105, gave a speech inspired by the musical Hamilton.

“2018, now is the time to get bolder," Harris sang. "The midterms are getting closer, that’s the future we should. Remember this November our blue wave is a coming, plan is to turn this wave into a tsunami and send us all up to Raleigh."

Democrats are hoping the so-called Blue Wave is high enough to win two Charlotte seats in Republican-friendly territory.  The strategy is a test of whether animus towards President Trump can extend to down-ballot races for state house seats.

There are two seats in the N.C. Senate and two in the House that voted for Clinton that are held by Republican incumbents.

In the Senate, Democrat Natasha Marcus is challenging Republican incumbent Jeff Tarte in District 41, which stretches from north Mecklenburg to southwest Charlotte.

The two house seats are both in south Charlotte.

One is that District 105 seat that’s held by Republican Scott Stone. That’s the seat Harris is seeking.

The other is in District 104, held by Republican Andy Dulin.

District 104 has so far drawn the most attention from local Democrats – even though it’s in the heart of the city’s Republican base, in neighborhoods like Myers Park and Quail Hollow.

The Democratic candidate is Brandon Lofton, an attorney with Robinson Bradshaw. As of the last campaign finance report, he has $95,000 cash on hand — nearly twice as much as Dulin.

“The most prominent thing I hear is concern about the state of our politics," Lofton said in an interview. "It does start at the national level, but people are also concerned about what they are seeing in Raleigh. And people are aware even if they don’t use the term super majority they have a sense that there is just a real imbalance in Raleigh and it’s hurting us.”

Former Republican Mayor Richard Vinroot, an attorney at Robinson Bradshaw, is supporting Lofton.

Dulin, a former City Council member, wants to make the race about him, and he believes he will out-work his opponent. Democrats acknowledge he’s a relentless campaigner.

Last week, as Dulin went door-to-door in Eastover, he used a cell phone app with a voter database that showed him which houses had registered voters. He plans to knock on 2,500 doors before the Nov. 6 election.

“I’m Andy Dulin, ma'am, and I’m running for re-election for the State House of Representatives.”

He had a lengthy conversation with a Democratic voter, who knew Dulin's mother. He implored her to vote for him at Eastover Elementary School, where Dulin went.

Credit Steve Harrison
Republican Andy Dulin, running for re-election in N.C. House District 104, goes door-to-door to meet voters in Eastover.

President Trump and the Republican leadership in Raleigh did not come up in their conversation. But Dulin said the GOP is moving the state forward.

“We have increased teacher pay, and not just some teachers — every teacher by 6.5 percent without borrowing any more money," Dulin said in an interview. "The Democrats will say, my opponent will say, 'well we wanted to give the teacher more.' GovernorCooperr wanted to give them more. Well, that was with having to go into debt to do it.”

Lofton said Dulin has shown no independence from Republican leadership.

“He’s voted consistently with Republican majority. He voted for the budget that passed," Lofton said. "He voted for the constitutional amendments that are on the ballot. He was one of the sponsors for the voter ID law that’s on the ballot.”

Just south of the Dulin-Lofton race is District 105, which encompasses Ballantyne and Providence Country Club. It also narrowly went for Clinton.

District 105 is also traditionally conservative, but it’s different than Dulin’s district. It’s full of newcomers — and it’s also more diverse.

Seventy-six percent of the voters in 105 are white, compared with 87 percent in District 104. Nearly 10 percent of voters in the district’s largest precinct are Asian.

“It’s a reasonably good Republican area, but it is also an area that can go either direction. It’s becoming a little more diverse," said Republican incumbent Scott Stone, who is president of an engineering firm.

Stone’s signature issue is working to improve conditions at assisted living facilities.

“The president comes up certainly because that’s what dominates the noise so often here," he said. "That will come up and I have to make sure they know I’m running for the N.C. House and not the U.S. House.”

Harris — who is an economic consultant — said only a few voters are aware of breaking the Republican super majority. When he asks them what are they most interested in, he said voters mention the president.

"They say getting a check on Trump," Harris said.

Democrats hope that sentiment holds for two more months, giving them a chance in the two Republican-held seats. Republicans hope the races stay local.