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North Carolina's Midterm Election: What You Need To Know As The Polls Open

Zuri Berry

Tuesday’s election has no governor’s race or Senate race on the ballot in North Carolina, but voters seem especially interested in the election, based on a surge of people voting early compared with 2014.

WFAE’s political reporter Steve Harrison discussed the midterm election with All Things Considered host Mark Rumsey.

Mark Rumsey: Steve, The 9th Congressional District race is Charlotte’s marquee race. Do the polls give us any clue as to who might win?

Steve Harrison: There hasn’t been a lot of public polling in this race. The New York Times and Sienna College have done two – the first had Republican Mark Harris ahead by 5 points, and one last one week Harris leading Democrat Dan McCready by only one point.

But if McCready is going to win, he may need a wave election. This district voted for Trump by 12 points. The most recent Times poll found that Trump still has an 11 point approval rating in the 9th Of Cook Political Report’s 29 toss-up districts, that’s the president’s second-highest approval rating, according to the New York Times polls.

So the Democrats have to walk a tightrope of getting Trump voters to leave Harris.

Rumsey: In the final days of the campaign, what’s been the tone?

Harrison: McCready has triple-downed on Harris’s controversial sermons about women and motherhood from 2013 when he was pastor at First Baptist Church in Charlotte.

And there has been a lot on social security and health care.

On the Republican side, the main theme against McCready has been Pelosi-Pelosi-Pelosi. And that he opposes the Trump tax cuts. He does oppose them but says he supports middle-class tax cuts.

What’s interesting is that the caravan making its way from Central America hasn’t shown up much. I was watching college football this weekend, and there were a lot of ads for the Missouri and Tennessee Senate races. And so many of those ads were about the caravan coming, and saying the Democrats aren’t going to stop it.

As far as I know, there hasn’t been any TV or mailers about the caravan in the 9th.

Rumsey: We’re used to lots of television ads for Congressional races, and maybe a few for legislative races. But nothing like this year, right?

Harrison: It is. There has been a flood of money pouring into Mecklenburg for the six House and Senate seats held by Republicans.

The Democrats are trying to break the Republican’s supermajority in Raleigh, which lets them override Democratic governor Roy Cooper’s vetoes. So the Democratic Party and individual donors have raised about $3.7 million – compared with $1.8 million for the GOP candidates.

So if you are watching local news, you have been deluged with TV ads for the House and Senate, and that’s unusual.

Rumsey: What is the prognosis for those House and Senate races?

Harrison: Well, the Democrats are confident they can flip Senate District 41, which runs from Lake Norman to southwest Charlotte. It was redrawn and has a lot more Democrats. Hillary Clinton won the precincts in that district. So the party thinks Natasha Marcus can beat Republican incumbent Jeff Tarte.

What’s interesting is that the Democratic Party has spent a ton of money into two House races that are in districts that won Trump won.

One is a House race in north Mecklenburg. Christy Clark has hammered Republican John Bradford for once supporting the I-77 toll lanes. That’s the race where the North Carolina Republican Party hit her with a negative ad saying she was “All Mob, No Plan,” and it had a photo of her in camo holding a bullhorn. Except that isn’t really Clark – it’s a stock image from another protest with her face photoshopped on it.

Rumsey: So, they have a photo of her that’s not really her?

Harrison: Clark says it’s a stock image of someone protesting in Canada, and that her face was photoshopped. On Twitter, they showed the two images side-by-side, and it’s clear that her face was photo-shopped on top of someone else’s body.

The other house race is in Matthews and Mint Hill. The Democratic Party has spent roughly $650,000 on Rachel Hunt’s campaign against Bill Brawley. She’s the daughter of former governor Jim Hunt.

Rumsey: There are six constitutional amendments on the ballot. The Democrats want voters to “Nix All Six,” and the Republican support them. Is it possible for a split decision?

Harrison: Yes. Spectrum News commissioned a poll last week that found there is support for the Victim’s Rights Amendment, the Hunting and Fishing Amendment and the photo ID requirement for elections.

The poll found the two amendments that shift power from the governor’s office to the legislature were behind. The amendment that would lower the cap on the state income tax rate was too close to call.

Rumsey: And locally, Charlotteans are voting on three bond packages, for transportation, neighborhood improvements and affordable housing. Voters usually support these, right?

Harrison: They do – and usually by large margins. What’s interesting this year is that the city usually asks for a $15 million affordable housing bond, but this year they are asking for $50 million. That’s in response to rising rents.

There has been a little tension this year, unlike in the past. When the city council plans to spend that money for new housing, it has pledged that the private developer will build 20 percent of the units for people earning 30 percent or below of the area median income.

That’s where the biggest need is, and the city hasn’t always done that.

But after the city made that commitment in August, a lot of potential opposition to the amendment went away.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.