North Carolina: Red, Blue or Purple?

Published July 15, 2013

By Tom Campbell

By Tom Campbell, July 15, 2013.

I always thought the vast majority of North Carolina citizens, especially voters, were moderates but recent national publications and media commentaries have me questioning whether it is true. Instead of purple (the mixture of conservative red or liberal blue) media types are convinced we have become a blood red state.

For the better part of the 20th Century Democrats dominated. When I first started covering politics the voter registration numbers showed three Democrats to every Republican. A large number would quickly tell you they were “North Carolina” Democrats, which we all understood to mean they were as likely as not to vote Republican in national elections and Democrat in state and local votes, a tradition which continued well into this century.


The percentage of registered Republicans grew rapidly in the latter years of the 20th Century, resulting in the percentage of Democrats declining. But the big gains in recent years have come from unaffiliated voters, now approaching 25 percent of the electorate. I understood this to mean a growing number weren’t comfortable with the philosophy of either party and, since there was no third or moderate, party chose to be unaffiliated. Maybe I was wrong.

Since Jimmy Carter North Carolinians have given our vote to Republican presidential candidates, with one notable exception in 2008. We’ve elected a preponderance of Republican U.S. Senators and growing number of GOP congressional representatives. Prior to the election of Pat McCrory, our governors were Democrats, with Jim Holshouser and Jim Martin being the notable Republican exceptions. But heck, both were moderates and when we elected Pat McCrory by a landslide vote in 2012, it was with the understanding that he was a moderate Mayor of Charlotte and would be the same when elected governor.

Democrats have historically dominated North Carolina’s legislature, largely due to the fact they drew the maps that determined voting districts and did so in a manner that would ensure D’s would win most of the seats. But things started changing in the mid-90’s when Republicans won control of the House for a few years and again in 2010, when they gained control in both houses of the legislature. Mind you, they were running in districts drawn by Democrats and still won.

Polls showed and voters confirmed that people were not happy with the direction and leadership from Democrats in leadership and wanted change. Boy, did they get it. With Democrat Bev Perdue in the governor’s office they passed a passel of bills, many of them vetoed, some over-ridden.

Now with a Republican governor the 2013 session of The General Assembly has been anything but moderate. Regardless of whether you are a D or R their work product is highly conservative, possibly one of the most conservative in the nation. Public opinion is often a pendulum that swings back and forth, sometimes to the left, other times to the right. The question is whether this legislature truly represents the majority of North Carolina voters? And if it does, are we witnessing just one of those swings or is this a new reality for North Carolina?

Read and listen to the media and all you hear is coming from the left or the right…and mostly from the left.  What happened to the moderates? Are they really out there and, if so, are they truly the majority?