May 9, 2018/Press

Primary Night Takeaways: Democratic Enthusiasm, Anti-Incumbent Bias, More Concerns for GOP Tax Message

Raleigh – Last night, North Carolina voters headed to the ballot box to vote for state and federal candidates for the first time in in the Trump-era, offering the first look at the electorate before this November’s elections.

While Rep. Pittenger made national news for losing to Mark Harris, other under-the-radar storylines reveal new insights about this electorate and their motivations – and more warning signs for the GOP.

Democrats Show Up Big at the Ballot Box

Democratic enthusiasm is growing across North Carolina and Tuesday nights’ results reaffirmed that Democrats and left-leaning Independents are fired up and voting.

  • Despite having 11 more races on the ballot than Democrats, Democratic primary candidates received nearly 20% more votes than Republicans.
  • In NC-09, more Democrats and Independents voted for Dan McCready (37,823) than people voted for the ENTIRE three-way Republican field (35,494), despite a much nastier primary where the incumbent spent more than $1 million.
  • In Mecklenburg county, turnout was up over 2 points from the 2014 midterm elections, even though 2014 saw a high-profile contested statewide primary.

Early voting laid the foundation for a strong night for Democrats, as Democrats had a higher share of the vote than ’10 or ’14 while Republican early vote ballots sagged behind 2014. That surge was led by:

  • People of Color: Democratic African-American turnout was up 18% vs 2014 and 116% vs 2010
  • Young people: 25-35 turnout was up 36% vs 2014 and 66% vs 2010
  • Women: Female Democratic turnout was up 21% vs 2014
  • A depressed GOP base: Republican male turnout was down 3.5% vs 2014 and white Republican turnout was down 2% while white Democratic turnout was up 12%

Anti-Incumbent Bias Spells Doom for NCGA Republicans

The biggest story of the night – Pittenger losing to Harris – showed that voters hold a strong anti-incumbent bias. Pittenger’s campaign manager placed their loss on this mood, noting, “I think that a lot of this is the fact that a lot of folks are unhappy with Washington.”

But it’s not just Washington voters are unhappy with. Eight General Assembly incumbents lost on primary night (in addition to familiar face and former Sen. Bob Rucho), a sign that voters are looking for change in Raleigh as well.

According to political scientist Michael Bitzer, “it is striking that incumbency was not as safe a bet as it has been in the past.”

Goodbye to the Gerrymandering Chiefs – And More Warning Signs for GOP Tax Message

Two of Republicans’ most notorious gerrymandering experts – Rep. Justin Burr, who has been the face of trying to gerrymander our judiciary, and former Sen. Rucho, chief architect of GOP tax and election laws – lost last night.

Sen. Rucho’s loss is also a warning sign for Republicans who hope to pin their electoral hope on their budget-busting tax cuts. His work at the center of the GOP tax cuts was front and center of his campaign and he ran on promising further tax cuts, a promise that wasn’t able to take him over the hump. Meanwhile, national Republicans have abandoned their tax message.

“North Carolina voters made their voices loud and clear Tuesday night that they want new leadership in the General Assembly,” NCDP spokesman Robert Howard said. “Democrats continue to gain momentum, and with a full slate of terrific candidates in every single legislative seat and voters fired up by Republican attempts to rig the system against our middle class, election day 2018 can’t come soon enough.”

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