Who will win in November's elections?

Published October 27, 2022

By Tom Campbell

Don’t be surprised when Republicans retain control of both houses in our legislature in the upcoming November 8thelections. They should. They carefully engineered and gerrymandered most of the 120 House districts and 50 Senate districts so they could stay in control. The only real question in doubt is whether Republicans will have supermajorities in one or both chambers.
That becomes important because it will determine whether the dominant Republican caucuses can pass just about anything they want without being stopped. Currently, the Governor can veto legislation and unless lawmakers can get 60 percent of their respective members to vote to overrule the veto it will be sustained.  Republicans now hold 28 of the 50 Senate seats and to reach a supermajority they would need 30. In the House the GOP has 69 of the 120 seats. To reach a supermajority they would need 72. A few seats changing in favor of Republicans in each chamber could further tilt the balance of power in our state.
As an unaffiliated moderate I hope that supermajority won’t be attained. My reasoning has nothing to do with whether I favor Democrats or Republicans. It supports the founders’ concept that there be checks and balances within our government. Here is how the principle works: the legislature can make a law, but the Governor can veto that law. Check. With enough votes the legislature can override that veto. Counter check. But even should the legislature pass a law and the governor not veto it the courts can declare the law unconstitutional. Final check. This framework was designed so that both the parties and the branches themselves should cooperate more closely together. However, if that cooperation doesn’t materialize, the checks should prevent one branch of government from becoming too powerful.
This takes on added importance when you recognize that in recent history very few of the bills passed had significant bipartisan support. Republicans vote in lockstep with their chamber’s leadership and Democrats do the same.  Independence within the caucus is not only frowned upon, it is punished. While Republicans are now in charge, the same was true when Democrats controlled the legislature for almost 100 years.
This segues our focus to our courts, especially the appellate courts. Even there partisanship is evident. Recent decisions demonstrate lockstep votes along party lines. The courts have become not just arbiters, but partisan arbiters and some accuse (and perhaps rightly) that judges are legislating from the bench.
There are two major contests for control of the NC Supreme Court. One seat is being vacated by a Democrat who will reach the mandatory retirement age shortly after the election. Another Democratic incumbent justice is running to retain his seat on the court. I expect Democrats will lose their current 4-3 plurality on the high court. My question is whether Democrats will suffer the loss of one seat or two. Either way, Republicans will have ultimate control on the court of last resort.
With legislation next year expected on abortion, race, sex, election laws and what can and can’t be taught in our schools, these Supreme Court votes will take on more importance and could further impact checks and balances in our state. We also have four important Court of Appeals judges seats to be determined.
All the polls have shown the US Senate contest swinging back and forth between Democrat Cheri Beasley and Republican Ted Budd. Unless the polls are badly mistaken, the Senate outcome will be close. It has great importance, not only in our state, but also could determine which party controls the US Senate. That body that determines future Supreme Court justice confirmations, as well as key administrative positions and ultimately whether a bill becomes law.
The partisan makeup of our 14 seats in Congress is uncertain. The courts declared the initial districts drawn by the legislature were unconstitutional and substituted their own maps, instructing that new maps be drawn after the midterm elections. Prior to redistricting we had a 10-3 Republican plurality in our congressional delegation. Our 2020 census increased our number of seats to 14 and the court-drawn maps appear to favor a more even split. We expect an 8-6 spread between Republicans and Democrats, but nobody knows for certain.
Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan described the electorate as “exhausted majorities.” We are not just exhausted, but disgusted with the ugly, hate-filled rhetoric, ads and shenanigans. A recent AP/NORC poll reveals 71 percent believe the very future of our country is at stake in November. 63 percent say election outcomes will have a big stake in determining our economy and 62 percent say it will determine abortion policy.
As we’ve said before, we’re in a bad mood and need to get out of it. Ryan says this should be “us versus China, not us versus other Americans.”
Would that we could wave a magic wand and make it so.