North Carolina: Breaking More than 100 Years of Democratic Control

Ben Cannatti and Ford O'Connell
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Posted: Aug 30, 2010 9:45 AM

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.”

The North Carolina based Civitas Institute released a survey in May that showed the race to be a dead heat.  “District 45 is a heavy Republican leaning district and given how close the polling here is today, will be a hard fought battle until November,” said Civitas Institute Senior Legislative Analyst Chris Hayes.  “The balance of power of the NC Senate in 2011 will be decided by who wins in District 45.”

Soucek is highlighting Goss’ support for a $1.1 billion tax increase last year in addition to his barrage of votes to increase regulation on businesses.  The Democrat has also demonstrated difficulty in complying with the state’s campaign finance laws.  By contrast, Soucek’s message is that his race, in particular “is critical to a conservative Republican victory in November.  The voters of western North Carolina can go from being all but ignored by Raleigh, to having the power to fire the liberal elites in Raleigh and hire a pro-jobs, pro-family Republican leadership.”

There is no doubt that Republicans, nationally, are prepared to make history in 2010.  With the next round of redistricting on the horizon, an opportunity to change the balance of power in North Carolina will not only make history, but also affect the state’s political landscape for the next decade.  With the 45th Senate District serving as the key for the GOP to take control of the upper chamber, Soucek presents the party with one of the most vital pick-up opportunities in the Tar Heel State.

To learn more about Dan Soucek’s bid in North Carolina, visit www.fansofdan.com.