The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

November 5, 2012

GOP holds advantage in House races


Monday, November 5, 2012 — RALEIGH – In the contests for state legislature, the politics can be local.

The money and strategy, to a large degree, no longer are.

Today, the bulk of money raised for legislative campaigns flows through legislative leaders and the political parties and is directed at swing districts identified as critical in keeping or trying to gain a majority of seats for either of the parties.

The campaign strategy to reach that goal is devised by consultants in Raleigh and even Washington.

So, when you see a TV ad or mailer featuring a legislative candidate making a point about a statewide issue, that language often has been crafted, in part, by political pros far removed from the candidate’s home town or district.

That doesn’t mean local issues, and how a candidate is known back in the district, won’t affect his or her election prospects.

It happens all the time. A candidate is caught up in a scandal, or becomes embroiled in a controversial issue like a neighborhood’s annexation or the path of a new highway, and subsequently loses an election.

Still, the centralization of strategy and money raising — along with the drawing of legislative districts designed to give one party or the other an advantage — makes predicting the outcome of who controls the state legislature an endeavor that looks more like science than art.

In North Carolina, Republicans will almost certainly maintain that control in the upcoming election, following up on their success in the historic election of 2010 that saw the GOP win majorities in both legislative chambers for the first in more than a century.

Republicans currently enjoy a 68-52 majority in the state House; their advantage in the state Senate is 31-19.

Senate leader Phil Berger recently told the Associated Press that he believed his party is in good shape to hold on to that majority but is unsure how many slots the GOP would control beyond a bare 26-seat majority.

Berger was apparently doing his best Lou Holtz poor-mouthing imitation.

Most political observers in Raleigh don’t expect the Senate’s numbers to change much. The Republicans could lose a couple of seats that they currently hold; they could win a couple that Democrats now hold.

The House is more unpredictable, if for no other reason than its sheer size.

Republican leaders in that chamber also sought to use redistricting to expand their majority rather than consolidate their 2010 gains. The result may be that they have weakened their position in some districts which they currently control.

Even so, Rep. Deborah Ross, a Wake County Democrat and Minority House whip, told the AP that she would consider election night a success if Democrats trimmed the GOP majority by four seats.

The takeaway: The folks back home could always decide to throw out the individual bum here or there; none of that will change the prevailing legislative winds, helped by new districts, that currently push Republican.