Ben Cannatti and Ford O'Connell

1898 was a long time ago, so it’s unlikely that anyone remembers when the Republican Party last controlled the North Carolina Senate.  2010 may be the year that everyone’s memory of Republican victory gets a boost.  With redistricting on the agenda next year, the GOP’s goal of a majority in the Senate could go a long way to leveling the playing field and keeping both the state senate and house chamber more balanced for years to come.

At first glance, the current 10-seat dominance of the Democrats would make it a safe bet for them to retain a majority in the Senate, especially with the built-in advantage of so many historically “safe” Democratic districts.  However, a combination of Dem retirements and a strong national mood favoring Republicans is opening up an opportunity for the GOP.  Polling confirms that 2010 could be a tough political year for incumbent Democrats, according to analysis from the North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation: “If the political winds are blowing at the backs of Republicans this year, it is going to be increasingly difficult for Democrats to hold seats in GOP territory.

Kudos to the North Carolina GOP for recognizing this opportunity early on, and recruiting candidates for all 50 seats.  State Sen. Pete Brunstetter (R-Forsyth) summed it up back in July for the Winston Salem Journal, when he “predicted a strong Republican push this year.”  It’s a full-court press in the Tar Heel state.  By having a candidate in every Senate race, the GOP isn’t leaving any lanes open for the Dems.

One seat that is proving to be “increasingly difficult” for Democrats to hold is North Carolina Senate District 45, where Republican Dan Soucek, an eight year Army veteran, is seeking to oust two-term Democrat Steve Goss.  While Democrats outnumber Republicans in most districts across the state, Republicans account for 43.7 percent of the electorate in the 45th, giving them a larger share than the Democrats.  The incumbent Democrat was narrowly elected in 2006 and managed to hold the seat in 2008, but voter trends and polling have led the North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation to label this district “Strong Republican.”

Ben Cannatti and Ford O'Connell

Ben Cannatti is Political Director of the Republican State Leadership Committee. Ford O'Connell is the co-founder of ProjectVirginia.