Five Must-watch NC House Races in 2020
“Flag of North Carolina” by Gerry Dincher is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

The candidate filing period in North Carolina is still open, and already five State House seats that could swing the balance of power in the General Assembly will have primaries to decide in March.

The current partisan makeup of the State House is 65 Republicans, and 55 Democrats. For the Republicans to regain their supermajority they will need to pick up seven seats to reach the necessary 72. For the Democrats to gain a simple majority they will need a six seat increase to obtain the needed 61. How these five primaries are won, and who wins them, could have a tremendous impact on whether the Democrats, or the Republicans, are able to realize their goals.

Dr. Jarrod Kelly, a professor of political science at North Carolina Wesleyan University, stated in a conversation with The Cycle there is clear evidence that a primary challenge to an incumbent is a predictor of the incumbent’s vulnerability in the general election. Dr. Kelly said that it was not always clear why there was a correlation, but there may be a few contributing factors. It may be that the incumbent was already perceived as being vulnerable, and thus attracted a primary challenge. Or, it may be that the incumbent is forced to deplete resources to secure the nomination, while the opposing party is able to accumulate funds and energize volunteers.

He said the case is slightly different for primary competitions between two non-incumbents where a primary could weaken the ultimate nominee, though that is not always the case. One danger of a primary in a race where a party is hoping to flip a seat is that party activists—who vote in primaries at higher rates—can have a tendency to choose candidates that are too far to the fringes of the political spectrum to resonate with general election voters, and thus weaken the party’s ability to flip the seat.

Of the five primary challenges that have been filed in swing districts so far, two of them are against incumbents, and three of them are to determine who will ultimately challenge the incumbent in the fall.

The breakdown of primary challenges in swing districts is as follows, in numerical order:

District 09, Pitt County

Democratic primary between Brian Farkas, and Dr. Jacob Hochard. Republican Dr. Perrin Jones is the incumbent.

Jones is filling out the remainder of a term left vacant by Greg Murphy when he was elected to the United States House of Representatives in a special election earlier this year. This means Jones is being denied some of the benefits that an incumbent usually enjoys, such as name recognition from previous elections.

Farkas is the only one of the candidates who has previously run in the 9th District. He was the Democratic nominee in 2016 where he received 17,007 votes to Murphy’s 22,869. The district has been redrawn since then to include new voters who would have otherwise not have been in the 9th in 2020.

Dr. Hochard is a professor of economics at East Carolina University where he specializes in Natural Resource Economics. He has written several papers on the link between human beings and the environment.

District 37, Wake County

Republican primary between Erin Paré and Jeff Moore. Democrat Sydney Batch is the incumbent.

Batch won the seat in 2018 after a close race with then-incumbent John Adcock, taking 22,803 votes to Adcock’s 21,859. Paré serves as the vice chair of the Board of Adjustments in Holly Springs. A PTA president states on her website that Paré is running on a message of quality education, lowering the cost of healthcare through marketplace competition, reducing government mandates, and pro growth economics.

Jeff Moore was a candidate in the 3rd Congressional District’s special election earlier this year in which Greg Murphy was ultimately elected. Moore received 2,277 votes, and was endorsed by former Rep. Ron Paul, and his son Sen. Rand Paul. Moore, a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, had previously served in the Department of Commerce under Pat McCrory’s administration where he worked on the NC Jobs Plan that McCrory signed in 2015. He is also the managing editor of the conservative website First In Freedom Daily.

District 43, Cumberland County

Democratic primary between Dr. Kimberly Hardy and Rep. Elmer Floyd. Republican Clarence Goins is currently unchallenged.

Rep. Floyd has served in the General Assembly since first being elected in 2008. His district was recently redrawn to make it more competitive, and Republicans are hoping they can flip it in November. Dr. Kelly pointed out that history does not bode well for an incumbent in Rep. Floyd’s position, who is facing a primary challenge before a general election that is anticipated to be competitive.

His primary opponent, Dr. Hardy is running on the message of bringing a new voice to government and on her experience in Social Work. She is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Fayetteville State University.

The winner of that primary will likely face Clarence Goins, a man from Eastover of Coharie descent, who works as a banker. He was a congressional candidate in 2016.

District 66, Richmond and Montgomery Counties

Republican primary between Ben Moss and Joey Davis. Democrat Scott Brewer is the incumbent, but has never faced an election before.

Brewer was appointed to finish the incomplete term of Ken Goodman, who was appointed to a position in Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration.

In his campaign launch event Republican Joey Davis highlighted his own personal connection to Montgomery County, and his knowledge of the issues they are facing. This could portend a primary race that is divided along regional lines, with Davis performing better in his home county of Montgomery while Moss, who is a County Commissioner in Richmond, competes to secure his base there. This primary may come down to a question of electability.

District 83, Cabarrus County

Republican primary between Rep. Larry Pittman and Jay White. Democrat Gail Young as of publication remains unchallenged in the Democratic primary.

Rep. Pittman introduced an amendment on August 28th to SB 683 that made it a felony to sell ballots. He also stirred up controversy earlier in the year, saying Abraham Lincoln had unjustly invaded the South, and compared Lincoln to Adolf Hitler.

Jay White works as an attorney in Concord, and previously served as a member of the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners, holding the position of Chairman for the majority of his time on the Board.

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