***Please see our page What’s “Flippable” in 2018: NC House for the most current version of this post.***
***Following this post, the US Supreme Court granted a partial stay on the Special Master's maps, reverting the NC House districts in Wake and Mecklenburg counties to those drawn by the GOP in 2017. For the latest on these districts and what they mean for our chances to break the supermajority in the NCGA, check out our blog post on what these changes mean for these counties and our updated analysis of the 18 most flippable NC House districts.***
The court-appointed Special Master has just submitted his final legislative maps to the court. These maps, which correct some of the NC GOP’s most egregious attempts to undermine our democracy, are the first step towards restoring a state legislature that truly represents the people of North Carolina. Under these maps, Democrats have a fantastic opportunity to break the supermajority in the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) in 2018. With strong candidates and a big enough Democratic wave, Dems could even take back the NC House altogether. Here’s how.
There are 120 NC House districts and 50 NC Senate districts in the NCGA. Due to extreme gerrymandering, Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers (75 to 45 in the NC House and 35 to 15 in the NC Senate). They use their supermajority to bulldoze our democracy, passing extreme legislation and overriding Governor Cooper’s veto. Our best opportunity to break the supermajority and restore the governor’s veto power is to focus on the NC House, where Democrats need a net gain of 4 seats to break the supermajority and 15 seats to pull even.
With those numbers in mind, here is FLIP NC’s guide to the 18 most flippable Republican-held NC house districts.
The Easy Pickups
1. NC-H61 - Guilford County (Greensboro), D+52
Roy Cooper would have won this newly drawn district 75%-23%, so it should be an easy pickup for Dems. The district was re-drawn by the Special Master to address severe racial gerrymandering in Guilford County created by the Republican mapmakers.
2. NC-H8 - Pitt County (Greenville), D+30
Republicans essentially conceded this district when they re-drew the maps; they didn’t even bother to make sure current incumbent Rep. Susan Martin’s home fell within the new district boundaries. Both Roy Cooper and Hillary Clinton easily won this newly drawn district 64%-34%. The GOP sacrificed NC-H8 to make other nearby districts safer.
The Democratic Leaners
3. NC-H36 - Wake County (Apex/Cary), D+7
4. NC-H104 - Mecklenburg County (Charlotte - Myer’s Park area), D+3
5. NC-H35 - Wake County (Wake Forest), D+2
6. NC-H105 - Mecklenburg County (Charlotte - Ballantyne area), D+2
The next four most flippable districts have a similar profile. All four lie in rapidly growing suburban parts of Mecklenburg and Wake counties; all four have been trending more Democratic over recent elections; and all four were won by Roy Cooper in 2016. With strong Democratic candidates, these districts have an excellent chance of changing hands in 2018 and bringing an end to the GOP supermajority in the NCGA.
7. NC-H119 - Jackson/Swain/Haywood Counties (Waynesville/Sylva), D-EVEN
8. NC-H93 - Ashe/Watauga Counties (Boone), D-5
These two western NC districts are among the top 10 most flippable districts in the state. In NC-H119, Joe Sam Queen (D) beat Mike Clampitt (R) in 2012 and 2014 before losing to him by fewer than 300 votes in 2016; Cooper lost the district by a similar margin. The margins for Cooper and recent Dem house candidates (Sue Counts in '14 and '16) have been a bit larger (5-6%) in NC-H93, a gap that is certainly surmountable with a solid wave for Democrats in 2018.
9. NC-H37 - Wake County (Holly Springs/Fuquay Varina), D-3
The most secure of Wake County’s three remaining red districts, NC-H37, is very much within reach in 2018. It went to McCrory over Cooper by just over 3% in 2016.
It Starts by Showing Up
10. NC-H98 - Mecklenburg County (Davidson/Huntersville), D-1
11. NC-H63 - Alamance County (Burlington), D-4
12. NC-H19 - New Hanover County (Wilmington), D-6
13. NC-H20 - New Hanover County (Wilmington), D-6
Roy Cooper lost these four districts by an average of 51.5%-47.5% in 2016 and yet, amazingly, Democrats didn’t field a candidate for the NC House in any of these districts. All four are clearly flippable in 2018 with a solid Democratic wave and, of course, strong candidates!
The Unusual Cases
14. NC-H51 - Harnett/Lee Counties (Sanford), D-9
Despite significantly over-performing Roy Cooper and Hillary Clinton, Democrat Brad Salmon lost his seat in the NC House to John Sauls in 2016. The good news is that NC-H51 was re-drawn to be 8 points more favorable for the Dems under the new maps, creating an excellent opportunity to reclaim this seat in 2018.
15. NC-H118 - Haywood/Madison/Yancey Counties, D-17*
At first glance, NC-H118 in Western NC doesn’t look too promising for Democrats. Cooper lost the district by 17 points and Clinton by 32. But severe forest fires suppressed turnout in the district in 2016, and the Democratic candidate for the NC House lost in both 2012 and 2014 by only 3 points (51.5-48.5), so NC-H118 appears flippable with a return to normal voting patterns and a modest Democratic wave in 2018.
16. NC-H1 - Bertie/Camden/Chowan/Perquimans/Tyrell/Washington Counties, D-7
Again, at first glance NC-H1 might not seem so flippable; Roy Cooper lost the district by about 30 points in 2016. But under the new maps, the district becomes much more favorable for Democrats, and the Dem House candidate outperformed Cooper’s margin by 4-5 points in 2016 — a combo that should make this rural district in eastern NC very competitive in 2018.
What Winning the House Looks Like
17. NC-H75 - Forsyth County (Clemmons/Union Cross), D-7
18. NC-H103 - Mecklenburg County (Matthews/Mint Hill), D-8
These two districts in suburban/exurban Winston-Salem and Charlotte essentially define the kind of place Democrats must win in 2018 and 2020 to take back the House. Roy Cooper lost these districts in 2016 by 7-8 points, and the Dem House candidates in each district significantly underperformed Cooper. Winning these districts in 2018 will require strong candidates plus a Virginia-sized statewide Democratic wave. It won’t be easy, but it is do-able!
The good news here is that there are strategic targets from the mountains to the coast and near every major city. The great news? We don’t need to change anyone’s mind to win big in 2018 — we just need to get Democrats to the polls. We need boots on the ground across the state — folks connecting with and energizing voters to get to the polls and make their voices heard.
A major part of FLIP NC’s mission is supporting grassroots groups across the state that are eager to work on elections in their local areas. From Asheville to Charlotte to Greensboro to the Outer Banks, we’re already hearing from many grassroots groups ready to start working on 2018 elections.
If your group would like to work on elections in 2018, let’s connect! You can reach us via email, Facebook or Twitter. We can provide the support you need to start, build and sustain your efforts. We’ll help to identify the best places to work; provide training, materials, walk sheets and call lists; help to lead your first canvass; and be there with ongoing support. This coalition is strong, and it’s growing. Join us, and let’s get to work!
Learn more about how we determined which districts are flippable and how Roy Cooper and Hillary Clinton performed in each.
And check out our interactive maps, including our precinct-level map showing the NC House, NC Senate, and US House races that are flippable in each of the 2,704 precincts in NC.