North Carolina Legislature 2016 Election Forecast

Republicans are expected to maintain control of North Carolina’s state legislatures in Tuesday’s election, according to Carolina Data Desk’s predictive model. The model, based on voter registration statistics and past election results and developed by UNC senior Shannon Paylor, projects that Democrats will break the Republican supermajorities in both the House and Senate by picking up six seats in the state House of Representatives and four seats in the state Senate.

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If incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is re-elected, the loss of veto override power won’t matter. However, if he loses the closely contested governor’s race to Democratic challenger Roy Cooper, the Republicans’ loss of a veto-proof majority will become much more significant.

A large number of North Carolinians, however, won’t have any say in the outcome of this important battle for control of the state legislature. Out of the 170 state legislative races, 72 have only one candidate — including nearly half of all races in the state House of Representatives. Of the remaining districts, only a few are expected to be closely contested.

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Carolina Data Desk has identified seven key districts that will be crucial in determining whether Republicans maintain a three-fifths majority and veto override power:

  1. House District 6 — Rep. Paul Tine was re-elected as a Democrat in 2014, but later became an unaffiliated member who caucused with the Republicans. He’s not running this year, and the seat should return to Democratic hands.
  2. House District 49 – We think that Rep. Gary Pendleton is the Republican most likely to lose his seat, as he looks to defend this Wake County district for the first time. Pendleton has been one of a few Republicans calling for a repeal of HB2.
  3. House District 59 – Republican Rep. Jon Hardister came into this seat in 2012 unopposed, and when he faced a Democratic rival two years later he earned 60 percent of the vote. Hardister has also been calling for a repeal of HB2.
  4. House District 35 – Republican Rep. Chris Malone received 56 percent of the vote in 2014 to win his second term, but since that time this Wake County district has become more Democratic. Martin voted for HB2, but said in an October campaign mailer that he now wants the law repealed.
  5. House District 8 – Republican Rep. Susan Martin got 60 percent of the vote when she faced her first re-election contest in 2014. But her district, which just barely connects Wilson and Pitt counties, has become more Democratic.
  6. House District 46 – In this flood-ravaged district, Democratic Rep. Ken Waddell held his seat with only 53 percent of the vote in 2014. Since then, the district has become more Republican and Waddell is not running for re-election. Waddell first took this seat for Democrats in 2012 with 54 percent of the vote.
  7. House District 41 – Democratic Rep. Gale Adcock won her first term in 2014 by only 777 votes out of about 30,000 votes cast. On paper, this appears the most likely seat for Democrats to lose, but the Republican challenger is a first-time candidate for office whose campaign had no money left in the bank on Oct. 31.

If these seven seats pan out according to the model, Democrats would still need to defend their remaining four “toss-up” seats, as well as picking up one of the seven remaining Republican “toss-up” seats in the House of Representatives.

The remaining “toss-up” seats that the Democrats are defending are:

  • District 54Robert Reives
  • District 119Joe Sam Queen
  • District 50Graig Meyer (in a rematch with Rod Chaney)
  • District 11Duane Hall (who faces the same Republican opponent he beat in 2014, as well as a Libertarian opponent who was not on the ballot in 2014)

The remaining Republican “toss-up” seats that Democrats are most likely to pick off are:

  • District 40Marilyn Avila
  • District 25Jeff Collins
  • District 67Justin Burr (who faces not only a Democrat, but another candidate who is unaffiliated)
  • District 55Mark Brody (in a rematch with Kim Hargett)
  • District 93Jonathan Jordan (in a rematch with Sue Counts)
  • District 3Michael Speciale
  • District 2Larry Yarborough

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In the Senate, there are eight seats we have rated as toss-ups on Tuesday night.

  • District 15 — In our model, this is the Republican seat most likely to flip blue. In 2014, Sen. John Alexander won his first run at the office after he stepped in to replace terminally ill GOP nominee Jim Fulghum. He beat a former Raleigh mayor by just 701 votes out of more than 80,000 cast. This year, Alexander faces both a Democrat and a Libertarian challenger.
  • District 25 — In the other Republican-held seat that looks like it might change hands, Rep. Tom McInnis faces one fewer challenger than he did in 2014. There is no Libertarian on the ballot in this district on Tuesday.
  • District 17 — Keeping with the theme, Republican Sen. Tamara Barringer faces challenges from both a Democrat and Libertarian this year. In 2014, she had only a Democratic opponent. Our model says this will be one of the closest Senate races in the state.
  • District 49 — Sen. Terry Van Duyn is the Democratic incumbent who looks to be in the tightest race to keep her seat.
  • District 1 — In 2012, Republican Sen. Bill Cook defeated his Democratic opponent by only 17 votes out of over 87,000 ballots cast. Cook won another close race in 2014 with 53.5 percent of the vote and this year faces Democrat Brownie Futrell in one of our closest projected races.
  • District 13 – Democratic Sen. Jane Smith won this seat in 2014 with nearly 63 percent of the vote, but we have it as a toss-up this year.
  • District 30 — Even though Republican Sen. Shirley Blackburn Randleman won this seat with about 71 percent of the vote two years ago, party registration in the district puts it in our toss-up category.
  • District 16 – Our model puts this Democrat-held seat in the toss-up category, and with Sen. Josh Stein vacating the seat to run for attorney general, the lack of an incumbent here could open the door for Republicans to pick up the seat.

Paylor also wrote about her methodology for Carolina Data Desk. The predictions for all districts are shown here:

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