North Carolina: Inside The Most Flippable State in the Country
Dems can pull a triple play
Welcome to a big Wednesday edition of Progressives Everywhere!
Lots of big news and analysis to get to tonight, which may be the last Wednesday before the beginning of a wholesale economic collapse due to Congress’s inability to come to an agreement on a second stimulus bill.
Oh, one thing: Every weeknight, I fill a newsletter with headlines, analysis, and races that get overlooked most everywhere else. If you want the daily newsletter delivered right to your inbox, just sign up for the premium edition of Progressives Everywhere. On Wednesday, I send it out for free!
North Carolina is Close to the Tipping Point
After Democrats flipped swing states like Colorado and Virginia all blue in 2018 and 2019, the biggest target for a wholesale flip in 2020 is North Carolina.
In fact, you could say North Carolina has already flipped blue — its representatives just need to reflect it. Democrats won a majority of votes statewide in 2018, but thanks to one of the most egregious gerrymanders in the country, Republicans were able to keep control of the state legislature and pass horrible anti-LGBTQ laws; only an end to their supermajority, earned in 2018, sustained a veto of a terrible anti-choice bill.
Last fall, the State Supreme Court ordered legislators to redraw the maps to even out the worst parts of the gerrymander, which gives Democrats a strong chance to win back both chambers in Raleigh this year as well as the state’s electoral votes in the presidential election. Democrats need to win just five seats to flip the State Senate and six seats to do the same in the State House of Representatives. Here’s a look at some of the best flip opportunities — hat tip to FlipNC for help with analyzing the redistricting.
State Senate District 39: You never want to say an election is in the bag, but this one is about as close as it gets without a candidate running unopposed. This Charlotte-area seat had its lines redrawn in the redistricting, going from a GOP gerrymander to a district that favors Democrats by a whopping 25 points. Even better, Democrats nominated a rising star named DeAndrea Salvador, a 29-year-old who founded her own renewable energy nonprofit and was a TED fellow in 2018.
State Senate District 18: Though not quite as big a slam dunk as District 39, this Wake Forest-area district now leans Democratic by six points. Running for Team Blue is Sarah Crawford, who has made a career out of working for nonprofits focused on education, healthcare, and economic stability.
State Senate District 31: Another Wake Forest-area district, this one shifts from being gerrymandered for Republicans to running about even. In 2018 Terri LeGrand, a lawyer and financial aid administrator at Wake Forest University, came close to beating the district’s very anti-abortion senator anyway, and now she’s got an even better shot. We interviewed LeGrand a few months back — check it out!
State Senate District 1: After keeping a very red State House district within 10 points in 2016, Tess Judge is now running to flip a larger State Senate district that’s much closer to dead even. It’s pretty ridiculously gerrymandered, but it should still be a down-to-the-wire race.
State House District 63: In 2018, this central North Carolina district was decided by less than 300 votes. This time around, Democrats have a decisive advantage thanks to the redistricting tweaks and another great candidate, Ricky Hurtado. A first-generation American, Hurtado has also had a career in non-profits, largely focusing on expanding access to education to working people and immigrants.
State House District 9: The now-defunct gerrymander of this district was so egregious, Democrats are going from getting swamped by 20 points in 2018 to being favored to take the seat. The party’s candidate, Brian Farkas, grew up in the Eastern Carolina area and is just 33-years-old, making him another one of the young stars running this year.
State House District 45: Another district that’s going to see a big swing thanks to gerrymandering being straightened out. GOP Rep. John Szoka won by 17 points in 2018 but now will have to face a fair race against a great candidate: Frances Jackson, a long-time community leader, teacher, and county magistrate.
State House District 59: Similar story in this northwestern Carolina district, which voted Republican by 13 points in 2018 but is now much more competitive. Nicole Quick, an occupational therapist and advocate for children with autism, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.
State House District 82: Democrat Aimy Steele ran a strong race in 2018 as a first-time candidate, losing by less than six points, and now she’s back to finish the job in this western North Carolina district. She is a former public school principal who is very focused on education policy, a hot-button issue in North Carolina.
State House District 74: Terri LeGrand ran in this district in 2018, while Dan Besse ran in the neighboring 75th House district, where he overperformed recent Democrats and lost by just seven points. The 74th district has been redrawn to be less gerrymandered, and those two factors combined make this a very good flip opportunity.
Elections (and Future Elections) and Voting Rights
Given the absolute catastrophe that has unfolded since Democrats and polls misread the national mood in 2016, we can’t allow ourselves to get too confident ahead of this November’s election. That being said, it’s still better to receive good news than bad news, and today brought several headlines that will bring a moment of joy to anyone who enjoys seeing Republicans sweat.
First, while the GOP has talked a big game about targeting swing seats flipped by Democrats in 2018, as of right now, the party is staring at what could be a massive 20-seat loss in 2020.
Internal Democratic surveys in recent weeks have shown tight races in once-solid GOP seats in Indiana, Texas, Michigan, Ohio and Montana that Trump carried handily 2016 — data that suggest the battleground is veering in a dangerous direction for the GOP.
"Republicans were jolted by the fact that a lot of white suburban voters abandoned them. The question now is whether that trend will continue," said former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), who lost reelection in 2018. "If it does, it could endanger some of those districts, particularly in the Midwest."
The suburbs powered the 2018 blue wave, which is probably why Donald Trump is beating extra hard on the racist drum:
Trump, of course, made it to the New York Times for the first time in 1973 for not renting his apartments to African-Americans.
Obviously, dog whistles work on some people, but there’s evidence that it’s just falling on deaf ears at this point. His mismanagement of COVID-19 outranks every other issue, #BlackLivesMatter is finally breaking through the sheltered white consciousness, and the economy is just too shattered for tired old fearmongering to really work.
What’s happening in Michigan right now is solid proof of Trump’s lack of efficacy. Trump is falling so behind in what is really a bellwether swing state that his campaign is largely retreating, pulling TV ad dollars and shifting attention elsewhere.
As we’ve discovered, we can’t really be sure of anything in this election — not only can public opinion be fickle, even when people are certain of who they want to vote for, their votes may not even get counted. In Michigan, in fact, the Secretary of State today asked people who haven’t yet sent in their absentee ballot for next week’s primary election to now drop them off at polling places. The postal system has been just inundated — nearly two million people in Michigan requested absentee ballots for the primary.
Elsewhere in the Midwest, J.D. Scholten, the Democratic candidate in Iowa’s 4th congressional district, announced today that he’s eschewing help from the DCCC. He ran a grassroots insurgent campaign in 2018 against super-racist Steve King and came just a few points away from pulling off the upset, which initially had the national party begging him to run again.
Once King went down in a primary contest, though, Scholten says the DCCC largely lost interest in the race. He sent an email out to supporters about it, but he gave a longer interview to The Intercept ahead of that:
“They would not agree that I should go to all 375 towns even though that’s how we earn votes,” he told The Intercept. “They want me to stay at home and just fundraise, be on the phone from the minute I wake up to the minute I go to bed.”
“The way the DCCC’s system is, candidates like me, they don’t really care much about,” he said. “If I could self-fund, they’d be all over me. I mean, the organizing and just the grassroots organization, we created something that’s so authentic and so organic that I don’t think they know how to deal with something like that. We need more working-class people in D.C., and their system is not made for that.”
The DCCC is useful — it provides resources to candidates who need them — but it also isn’t particularly flexible or amenable to progressives. Most famously, it blacklisted consultants and vendors that did work for primary challengers, a move that spectacularly backfired until they reached a ceasefire, and ignored a lot of really strong candidates in 2020 that could have won with some help.
Finally, another new swing state is deadlocked: Joe Biden and Donald Trump are tied 47-47 in Georgia. With the state closing in on seven million registered voters already, there will likely be a record number of registered voters in Georgia by election day, when experts say there could be five million ballots cast.
COVID-19 and Related Drama
“I can’t help but wonder if by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place, if I might have put some … of the virus on the mask and breathed it in. … But the reports of my demise are very premature,” he said. “If somebody feels strongly about everybody should wear a mask, then they shouldn’t be around people that don’t wear masks.”
I don’t want to be glib about COVID-19, though. Because even if you’re asymptomatic or get a very light case, it could truly mess you up. This study of what it’s done to survivors’ hearts is really, really scary.
One study examined the cardiac MRIs of 100 people who had recovered from Covid-19 and compared them to heart images from 100 people who were similar but not infected with the virus. Their average age was 49 and two-thirds of the patients had recovered at home. More than two months later, infected patients were more likely to have troubling cardiac signs than people in the control group: 78 patients showed structural changes to their hearts, 76 had evidence of a biomarker signaling cardiac injury typically found after a heart attack, and 60 had signs of inflammation.
These were relatively young, healthy patients who fell ill in the spring, Valentina Puntmann, who led the MRI study, pointed out in an interview. Many of them had just returned from ski vacations. None of them thought they had anything wrong with their hearts.
This is especially terrifying to me, because I was born with aortic stenosis and have had four major open-heart surgeries in my life, most recently in 2012. Don’t tell my mom about this new study — she’ll be calling me 24/7.
Wait, before you go!
Progressives Everywhere is a one-person operation funded by readers like you (and whatever spare change I have in my pocket after paying rent). Together, we’ve raised over $1.3 million for truly progressive candidates and causes since 2018, helping to flip seats, restore voting rights, expand healthcare, and much more.
To make this sustainable, I need your help. Subscribe to our nightly newsletter, which for a dirt-cheap monthly rate — seriously, it’s the lowest the system allows — provides you with deep dives into elections and the crucial political stories not getting enough attention.
You can also make a one-time donation to Progressives Everywhere’s GoFundMe campaign — doing so will earn you a shout-out in an upcoming edition of the big newsletter!