lthough there are still a few weeks left in the 2019 calendar, on the political calendar it’s already 2020. Filing for candidates at the state, local and federal levels begins in early December, and many campaigns are already in full gear.
The Herald turned to Chris Cooper, professor and head of the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs at Western Carolina University, for his reading of the 2020 tea leaves. Cooper offers expert opinion – he was in fact employed as an expert witness in the N.C. General Assembly gerrymandering trial that resulted in new district boundaries for a number of General Assembly districts in the state. (Note, both sides in the trial employed expert witnesses; Cooper was accepted by the defendants with no objections, signaling that he is in fact recognized as an expert on state politics).
The full Q&A with Cooper can be found in this week’s Herald.
It struck us that Cooper’s take on 2020 is reminiscent of the old wedding tradition, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”
Let’s break it down.
Voters in Jackson County won’t have to dig up the new state House and Senate district maps to figure out if they’ve been moved into a new district. Those lines will stay the same, and indeed, at least in the state House, the candidates will stay the same, with incumbent Democrat Joe Sam Queen and challenger Mike Clampitt meeting for the fifth consecutive race. That’s if...
Clampitt can hold off Ron Mau in the GOP primary; a contested primary is something we haven’t seen in a decade. New voting machines will be in place for the next election, as will voter ID requirements. Additionally, the 11th congressional district, about as safe a GOP seat in North Carolina as possible for the last decade for incumbent Rep. Mark Meadows, will almost certainly see the entirety of Asheville returned to its traditional place. That should mean Meadows could face a serious challenger. And unlike in the House, Jackson County will see a new face in the state Senate, as incumbent Jim Davis has decided to hang up his political spurs.
The voter ID requirements in North Carolina are modeled after strict measures imposed in a number of other states. North Carolina’s initial voter ID law was struck down in federal courts in 2017. Voter ID was then put to the ballot as a constitutional amendment in 2018, where it passed with 55 percent of the vote.
It could be the 11th Congressional District. The proposed line changes don’t flip the 11th from red to blue, but with the scoop of liberal Asheville that was shipped off to the 10th District in a gerrymander following the 2010 Census returned to the 11th, it could be much more competitive. Rep. Meadows has fundraising prowess and national name recognition, but hasn’t faced more than token opposition for several elections. If a well-financed and capable candidate emerges from the Democratic sidelines, that could change. Plus, Meadows has allied himself with President Trump as solidly as anyone, so should the president take a serious hit in the ongoing impeachment saga, it could impact Meadows.
It’s less than a year to the November 2020 elections, but voters need to start paying attention right now to the changes, the issues and the faces that are beginning to emerge.