By John Rustin, Jonathan Kapplar, and Meaghan Lewis
North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation
It was just two weeks ago that Bev Perdue (D) turned the state’s political landscape on it’s head by announcing she would not be seeking a second term as North Carolina’s Governor. The days that followed have been filled with similar political drama as we’ve learned about the planned retirement of several members of the legislature and our congressional delegation. In some cases those announcements were as unexpected as Gov. Perdue’s. For a quick guide on who is running, and who is not, download an updated copy of the North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation’s 2012 Election Tracker and 2012 Turnover Tracker. These documents are updated, sometimes multiple times a day, as we learn of new candidates, retirement announcements and the intentions of currently serving officials to seek higher office.
Summary of the Past Week
If your head has been spinning with the seemingly endless series of surprising election announcements, you are not alone. Since we published last week’s About the Capital, two more members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation unexpectedly announced that they would not seek reelection: Rep. Heath Shuler (D) in the 11th Congressional District and Rep. Sue Myrick (R) in the 9th Congressional District. Based on our analysis of the congressional redistricting map, both of these districts are Leaning Republican territory with Rep. Shuler’s District 11 having been drawn as the strongest Republican leaning district in the state. Rep. Shuler’s decision to retire makes it even more likely that this seat will end up in GOP hands following the 2012 election. Not unexpectedly, Rep. Myrick’s retirement announcement has been met with what appears to be a developing competitive and crowded Republican primary, with three candidates having already announced and several others considering a run for Congress.
In the North Carolina General Assembly, there were four significant retirement announcements by Democrats this week as well. Sen. Linda Garrou (D-Forsyth), former House Speaker and current House Minority Leader Rep. Joe Hackney (D-Orange), Rep. Jennifer Weiss (D-Wake) and Rep. Edith Warren (D-Pitt) all announced they would not be seeking another term. All, except Rep. Warren, were double-bunked with other incumbent members of the legislature, and Rep. Warren’s district was significantly altered, taking it from a Strong Democratic district to a Swing district.
While we have learned of numerous retirements on both sides of the aisle in the past few weeks (with more likely to come), Democrats appear to be bearing the brunt of these changes. Rep. Hackney and Sen. Garrou, for example, will not only take with them a combined 46 years of legislative experience but also the ability to raise substantial funds for the Democratic caucuses in their respective chambers. Rep. Hackney was the top Democratic fundraiser in the House during the 2009-2010 election cycle ($1.2 million), and Sen. Garrou has traditionally been a proficient fundraiser among Senate Democrats (she raised more than $310,000 in 2009-2010, despite facing no formidable electoral opposition).
Why All of These Announcements Now?
Traditionally, a heightened level of candidate announcements and changing political intentions are always expected as the candidate filing period approaches and incumbent lawmakers and political hopefuls are solidifying their election plans. The volume of retirements, open seats, and other such changes only increases after congressional and state legislative district maps are redrawn.
It was less than three weeks ago that a special three-judge panel hearing arguments in the lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s redistricting maps refused to delay the state’s elections calendar for 2012 meaning this year’s elections would take place under the maps drawn by the GOP-led legislature. Democrats were hopeful the new maps would be overturned in part or in whole by the court, and many incumbents, especially those who had been double-bunked with other members, were waiting to see what action the court would take before making a decision about running in 2012. When it became clear the Republican-drawn maps would be used this year and the election calendar would move forward as scheduled, lawmakers were forced to make a decision.
And as we’ve noted in our Partisan Districts Ratings (see the spreadsheets for the U.S. Congress, N.C. Senate, and N.C. House), the new district maps largely favor the election of Republican majorities in the N.C. Senate, N.C. House and in North Carolina’s 13-member U.S. Congressional delegation. The changing political landscape, including open statewide contests for Governor and Lt. Governor, have also prompted some member of the state legislature to seek higher office.
Campaign Finance Analysis Forthcoming
Outside of the daily political drama we are all witnessing, a broader shift is taking place in North Carolina politics in terms of campaign finance. As Associated Press reporter Gary Robertson wrote about this week in an excellent article, the tables have been turned and Republicans are now enjoying the money advantage that has traditionally benefited Democratic incumbents in the state legislature. The North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation is in the process of finalizing a detailed and comprehensive analysis of U.S. congressional, N.C. Senate, and N.C. House campaign finance information, and we plan to roll that information out next week. In addition, we will also be closely monitoring as candidates file for office beginning Monday, February 13th, and running through the close of the filing period on February 29th.
This story was posted with permission of the North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation