The time for superfluous introductory paragraphs has passed. The results are in. Here’s what I predicted vs. what happened, starting with the upsets:
NC Senate 19
Prediction: deViere will hold serve with Democrats and win enough unaffiliated voters to gain a significant early-vote advantage. DeViere and Meredith will be sweating election night returns as deViere’s lead dwindles, but in the end deViere pulls off the upset with a razor thin margin: 50.6-49.4.
Result: deViere 50.26 – Meredith 49.74
What happened: deViere jumped out to an early vote lead of around 2500 votes. The lead dwindled to 700 votes with five precincts remaining. The remaining precincts came in at 10:30 p.m., and deViere hung on to beat Republican Incumbent Wesley Meredith by just over 300 votes.
I’m a bit proud of myself for calling this one so close.
Cumberland County District Court Judge:
Prediction: Incumbent Tal Baggett was endorsed by the local Democratic party, but Caitlin Young Evans has run a smart and tenacious campaign. Females have done well in Cumberland judicial races as of late, but I think Baggett will win with a combination of name recognition and a larger share of Republican and Independent voters. Judge Baggett keeps his seat 53-47.
Result: Evans 56 – Baggett 44
I should have stopped writing my prediction at the end of the pink sentence. This was a “change” election and I, like many, over-estimated the power of incumbency in this race. Evans ran an impressive campaign and outworked her opponent. In the end, she shocked a lot of people in Cumberland County.
US House (9th District)
Prediction: McCready 51 – Harris 49
Actual Vote: McCready 48.77 – Harris 49.43
We knew this one would be close. It was the only congressional race in North Carolina that I thought the Democrats would flip. They failed.
McCready won 6 out of 8 counties in the district, but was annihilated in Union County. It cost him the race.
NC House 44
Prediction: Richardson holds off Republican Linda Devore 53-47.
Result: Richardson 56 – Devore 43
Richardson outperformed even his son’s expectations. The election-day vote actually increased his early-vote lead as the results came in. On a good night for Democrats, Richardson solidified his position as “Olde Fayetteville’s” representative in the North Carolina House.
Other NC General Assembly Races:
Prediction: Ben Clark (Senate 21), Marvin Lucas (House 42), Elmer Floyd (House 43), and John Szoka (House 45) are all in radically gerrymandered districts. They will all be re-elected without difficulty…..
Result: They were all re-elected without much difficulty.
Cumberland County Sheriff:
Prediction: This one is going to be a landslide. You can look at the Democratic and African American turnout in the early vote in Cumberland County and tell that no Democrat is going to lose a county-wide race. Ennis Wright remains our Sheriff by beating Charlie Baxley 60-40.
Result: Wright 63 – Baxley 36
The result speaks for itself in this one.
Cumberland County Clerk of Court:
Prediction: (Cindy Blackwell)….faces the same problem as Charlie Baxley and every other Republican that tries to run county-wide in Cumberland. Lisa Scales will win 56-44.
Result: Scales 59 – Blackwell 41
US House (8th District):
Prediction: Hudson 53 – McNeill 47
Result: Hudson 55.4 – McNeill 44.6
Hudson cruised in this Republican-leaning District, as predicted.
Final Count: 9 for 11
On November 6, 2018, Cumberland County solidified itself as a Democratic stronghold in the era of Donald Trump.
Below are my predictions for competitive Cumberland County races in the 2018 midterm election. Unlike this year’s primary races that were relatively easy to predict (I was 9 for 10), several of the races up for grabs Tuesday are literal dead-heats . In short, I may end up looking like a fool Wednesday morning.
Nevertheless, I started this blog because I saw a void of good political analysis in Fayetteville press and radio where the same talking heads were and continue to be quoted in every story. I took a chance and tried something unique with this site, and this post is written in that spirit. Thank you for reading.
One theme I hit on often at Cross Creek Divide is the growing divisiveness and partisanship in our present moment of American politics. This election will be a cross-country case study of the effects of this growing divide.
A referendum of the President has been developing since he took office in 2016 while losing the popular vote by 2,800,000 votes (the largest deficit in the history of the Presidency). Trump’s Gallup approval rating has never been above 50% and has taken a dive as of late:
Right now, both Republicans and Democrats are entrenched in their positions. Democrats are ready to send Trump a message. Republicans are rallying to the promise of “Keeping America Great” by keeping themselves in power. Nationally, turn-out is high across the board.
Partisan dynamics will have a greater impact than they would in a traditional mid-term election where state and local issues tend to dominate. In short, there won’t be many votes stolen from across the aisle. It’s all about getting your voters to the polls.
In the face of all this partisanship, we a have a growing “unaffiliated” group of North Carolina voters, driven in part by young people who are fed up with traditional parties. Where do these folks land in 2018?
To make a good forecast, we need to start on solid footing, so let’s look at the raw data. This is the early vote in Cumberland County by party registration, taken from carolinaelections.com:
Here’s the total vote in Cumberland County from the 2014 Mid-Term Election, by party registration:
76,606 people voted in Cumberland County in 2014. So far in 2018, 48,494 people have voted early. The 2018 early vote is 63.3% of the total vote in 2014.
Thus far in 2018, Democrats have voted at 63.2% of their total 2014 vote, right on pace with the overall turnout.
Republicans are lagging behind at only 54.3% of their 2014 numbers.
Unaffiliated voters, an ever-increasing demographic, have voted at 76.5% of their 2014 numbers.
Republicans, ever the traditionalists, will come out in greater numbers on Tuesday, but what we have seen so far is Democrats and Independents surging in Cumberland County early voting. This cannot be ignored in a mid-term election and colors the analysis.
We’ll start at the top of the ticket:
US House (9th District): This race is a true toss-up that is being watched all over the country. If Democrats flip this seat, they can flip others like it and easily capture the House of Representatives.
Democrat Dan McCready has run an impressive, well-funded campaign and solidified his position as a moderate that fits the District. Due to the high Democratic and African American turnout in early voting in the bookends of the 9th District (Mecklenburg and Cumberland), I think McCready starts the night with a 3-4 point early-vote lead that dwindles to a 1 point lead by midnight as the election day results trickle in. McCready will flip this seat and beat Republican Mark Harris 51-49%.
US House (8th District): While this is a good year for Democrats, this 8th District is too red for former Aberdeen Mayor Frank McNeill to win. Republican incumbent Richard Hudson is an expert politician, having been groomed for this seat since he was an aid to the seat’s former Congressman, Robin Hayes. Hudson has learned the blueprint for success and is heavily backed by the Republican establishment. Moreover, the 8th District was drawn by Republicans in Raleigh to remain red, even in a blue-wave election year. Richard Hudson will hold his seat, 53-47%.
Tangential Prediction: For these same reasons, Republicans will hold all other Congressional seats in North Carolina including the “competitive” 2nd and 13th Districts. These Districts remain gerrymandered in favor of Republicans. Expect only the 9th District to flip.
NC Senate 19: Probably the most controversial and hardest race to call on the list, I’m torn between my head and my heart and the two often flip-flop when I analyze this one.
Incumbent Wesley Meredith spent over a million dollars to destroy my old man in 2014, and he’s done the same to challenger Kirk deViere this year. However, as I pointed out in my last post, Meredith’s routine cash advantage hasn’t always had the impact one would expect. In spite of the lopsided campaign expenditures, the Democrat running against Meredith typically gets close to the same percentage of the vote as the Democratic composition of the electorate. Right now, registered Democrats are 49.62% of the early vote. I don’t think this number will change very much on election day.
Having been recently redrawn, the 19 District is now more favorable to Democrats. If you look at a breakdown of the votes for Governor in 2016 in the new Senate 19 District, it was McCory 49, Cooper 48.8. This Meredith-deViere race has the potential to be that close. The wild-card is the ever increasing number of “unaffiliated voters” in Cumberland County. Unaffilated voters are 22.74% of the early vote in Senate 19. Can deViere win with a coalition of Democrats and unaffiliated voters?
If I’m being honest, my head thinks that Meredith will hold off deViere, but I’ve seen upsets in Cumberland County before. One happened in 1992 when I was 9 years old. Voters wanted change and elected a young attorney to the North Carolina House over an incumbent and former Mayor of Fayetteville. No one saw it coming. The lesson: upsets are driven by outside influences, political winds that push close races in one direction or another. The strongest wind is deep unrest and a desire for change. Meredith was elected in 2010 when these winds were pushing in his direction. The winds have shifted, and I’m going with gut feeling on this one:
DeViere will hold serve with Democrats and win enough unaffiliated voters to gain a significant early-vote advantage. DeViere and Meredith will be sweating election night returns as deViere’s lead dwindles, but in the end deViere pulls off the upset with a razor thin margin: 50.6-49.4.
NC House 44: Democrat Billy Richardson’s district is more favorable to a Democrat than Senate 19. You can take deViere’s total and add two or three percentage points to it and get Richardson’s share of the vote. Two years ago, Jim Arp came within a hair of taking out my old man. For the same reasons I’ve already stated, this is a better year for Democrats, and I believe party will TRUMP gender in the minds of female voters (See what I did there?) Richardson holds off Republican Linda Devore 53-47.
Cumberland County District Court Judge: This is an intriguing race with two Democratic Judges facing off county-wide. Incumbent Tal Baggett was endorsed by the local Democratic party, but Caitlin Young Evans has run a smart and tenacious campaign. Females have done well in Cumberland judicial races as of late, but I think Baggett will win with a combination of name recognition and a larger share of Republican and Independent voters. Judge Baggett keeps his seat 53-47.
Cumberland County Sheriff: This one is going to be a landslide. You can look at the Democratic and African American turnout in the early vote in Cumberland County and tell that no Democrat is going to lose a county-wide race. Ennis Wright remains our Sheriff by beating Charlie Baxley 60-40.
Cumberland County Clerk of Court: This race has some intrigue. Sitting Clerk Lisa Scales is facing Cindy Blackwell. Blackwell is a newcomer to Republican politics after changing parties to run in this race. Blackwell has spent $144,000 so far after her husband lent her campaign $115,000. Still, she faces the same problem as Charlie Baxley and every other Republican that tries to run county-wide in Cumberland. Lisa Scales will win 56-44.
Other NC General Assembly Races: Ben Clark (Senate 21), Marvin Lucas (House 42), Elmer Floyd (House 43), and John Szoka (House 45) are all in radically gerrymandered districts. They will all be re-elected without difficulty and in doing so demonstrate the downside of racial and partisan gerrymandering: these incumbents aren’t held accountable because they will never face a legitimate general election challenge.
Early voting enthusiasm for Cumberland Democrats will carry into election day giving Democrats an inherent advantage across the board. Democratic voters will combine with young, unaffilated voters to produce landslides for Democrats in county-wide races and tip the scales in close legislative races. Democrat Dan McCready uses these same trends to tip the 9th Congressional District in his favor.
Check back later this week for a breakdown of the results, and get out and vote if you haven’t already.
Democrats are surging in early voting in the newly-modified 19th Senate District. The potential for Democratic challenger Kirk deViere to take this seat from Republican Senate Whip, Wesley Meredith is growing each day. Here’s a breakdown of all the voters, by voter registration:
Percentage of Senate 19 Electorate (By Party Registration)
So far, registered Democrats are half of the early voting electorate in the new district. This is driven in a large part by African Americans. The tentacles that once captured African Americans in Fayetteville and combined them with Hoke County Democrats have been chopped off by the courts.
OLD SENATE 19
NEW SENATE 19
The result is a much cleaner district and surge in minority voters:
Percentage of Senate 19 Electorate (By Race)
WHY THIS MATTERS:
The 19th Senate District has hosted some of the most expensive legislative races in North Carolina history. Wesley Meredith raises and spends over a million dollars on a routine basis to keep the seat and he’s on pace this year:
Another "wow". Sen Meredith (R) in competitive #NCSD19 raised $623k in Q3 (incl $510k from the GOP), spent $1.1 million (!), had $21k on hand. Kirk deViere (D) raised $459k (incl $349k from NCDP), spent $450k, had $28k. Key & very expensive race to watch #NCGA#NCPOL
The ironic thing? The money may not make a difference. I know, it surprised me too. But, here’s why: the Democratic candidate’s vote share in Senate 19 typically tracks the percentage of registered Democrats that make up the electorate.
Here’s a chart of the Data:
As you can see, registered Democrats look after their own in Cumberland County, even after the million-dollar barrage of negative advertising that Meredith throws their way every two years.
On paper, it appears that Meredith beat George Tatum (2012), Billy Richardson (2014), and Toni Morris (2016) with a combination of Republican and Independent voters. I’m not sure he can do that this year.
Registered Democrats are 49.6% of the early vote in District 19.
The government of the United States is literally up for grabs this year. If you think your vote doesn’t matter you may have been right at one time, but not in 2018. This is a tweet from probability guru Nate Silver describing the competitive nature of Congressional races this year:
Not sure people realize how broad the House playing field is.
In our final forecast in 2014, the Deluxe version of our House model would have considered 44 seats to be competitive.
Here’s a follow-up explaining why this is occurring:
Why so many? —Many R retirements —Lots of D cash even in red districts —Ds nominated candidates for almost every race (and "good" candidates in most) —National environment good enough for Ds that they're lapping against the edges of districts that were meant to be R gerrymanders
3. NC Democrats are running a candidate in almost every legislative race.
The National environment may be good enough for Democrats nationwide, but where does it stack up in North Carolina? Can Democrats win in districts that were meant to be “safe” Republican seats thanks to gerrymandering? I’m not so sure. Remember, only a select few of these districts were significantly re-drawn to accommodate federal court orders.
On top of all this, we are more polarized than ever as a result of the national political scene and President Trump. Trump’s NC approval rating consistently beats his national average. Moreover, Trump will not let anyone sit this one out. He’s firing up his base as he aggravates the daylights out of his opposition, and it’s showing up in the data. We’ve seen a surge in the Republican early vote this year. Democrats are not taking the huge early-vote leads they anticipated because Republicans are energized as well.
In sum, it’s a free for all in 2018, with a whole lot on the line across the board. It’s chaotic right now, but therein lies the opportunity for Democrats.
There is still time for North Carolina Democrats, but this one is going to be close. They better get out and vote!
With several days of early voting under our belt and a higher-than-expected turnout, we have enough raw data to draw some preliminary conclusions about the 2018 electorate in Cumberland County.
Women are Under-Performing
I’ve written at length about a predicted surge in female voters this election. I appear to be dead wrong after several days of early voting as the opposite has happened, at least in Cumberland County. Here’s the breakdown:
Here’s the same figures in a bar-chart:
In 2016, with a female on the presidential ballot for the first time, women took a massive share of the vote in Cumberland County: 56.11%. Men didn’t come close with 39.99%, and the result was was a 16-point gender gap.
This year, the vote is closer than it’s been in the past three major elections with men making a 5 point jump to 45.3% of the vote. With women at 51.99%, the gap has closed to 6.7 points. It will be interesting to see if this trend holds. Needless to say, I’m surprised. This will definitely affect local races. Read this link as to how that might work.
Party Vote Seems Stable
Here’s a breakdown of the recent historical vote by party in Cumberland County:
And a line graph of the same numbers:
As you can tell, party voting has remained relatively stable over the past three elections. While Democrats are enjoying a slight edge in the 2018 early vote, that is to be expected. Democrats like early voting, especially on weekends. If anything, I would expect Democrats to be doing better than they are in the 2018 early vote. The current figures suggest that Republican voters in Cumberland County are rallying around their Commander in Chief with more enthusiasm than anyone predicted. Perhaps the Kavanaugh nomination battle got men agitated. We’ll see if this holds as election day nears.
Enthusiasm seems high across the board in Cumberland County. Party trends are stable, and men are doing better than expected.
On that note, I received my first ad from Wesley Meredith yesterday. All the others (pink glitter and what not) have been addressed to my wife. This one argued that Kirk DeViere wanted to take away my right to hunt and fish because he was against one of the proposed constitutional amendments. I assume the ad was targeted toward men. Looking at early vote out of Cumberland, it’s not a bad strategy for Meredith to target guys as we don’t seem to be going down without a fight this year.
By the way, like DeViere, I’m against all of the amendments. Still, I’ll probably go fishing this weekend. Certain rights are inalienable.
That’s my grandma on the New Bern waterfront as a young lady. I wonder who she’d vote for.