By Mitch Kokai
New legislative election maps would give Republicans an advantage in the 2022 elections. But the GOP would have to win some competitive races to secure majorities in the state House and Senate, according to a newly-released assessment.
The N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation’s Partisan District Index labels 50 of the 120 new N.C. House districts as “strong Republican” seats. Another 10 seats “lean Republican.” If Republicans won every one of those seats, they still would fall one vote short of the 61 needed to control the chamber.
NCFREE identifies 43 “strong Democrat” House districts and nine districts that “lean Democrat.” That leaves eight districts designated as competitive.
Barring any other circumstances that could affect an election’s outcome, including the advantages of incumbency or district-specific issues, Republicans would need to win all GOP-leaning seats and one competitive seat to control the chamber. They would need to win all GOP-leaning seats, all competitive seats, and four Democratic-leaning seats to secure the 72 votes needed for veto-proof supermajorities.
Democrats would face a steeper hill. They would need to win every Democrat-leaning seat, all competitive seats, and one GOP-leaning seat to secure a majority.
On the Senate side, NCFREE also identifies a Republican advantage. The group labels 23 of 50 districts as “strong Republican” and an additional district as “leans Republican.” Eighteen districts carry the “strong Democrat” label, while another two “lean Democrat.” NCFREE identifies six competitive Senate districts.
The GOP would need to win every Republican-leaning district and two competitive districts to control the Senate. Republicans would need to win all six competitive seats to secure a 30-seat veto-proof supermajority.
Democrats would need to win all Democrat-leaning districts and all six competitive seats to secure a simple majority.
“Our rating, incorporating statewide results from 2014 to 2020, filters the voting data through a lens that is consistent with our methodology but may challenge some district analysis that emerged during the map-drawing process,” said Anna Beavon Gravely, NCFREE executive director, in a news release. “We view these differences in our analytical output as an overall example of how dynamic and nuanced our state is and will be during this 2022 election cycle.”
“NCFREE produces the PDI not to predict electoral outcomes but to describe and understand the districts and what opportunities exist,” Gravely added. “There is not one set of right analyses, and that is the point. The last few election cycles have reinforced the difficulty in predicting the outcomes of North Carolina politics. And the best way to analyze the landscape is to look at what the data is telling us.”
NCFREE changed the methodology for calculating its index in July 2020. Rather than incorporating elections going back to 2008, the index now focuses on statewide races from 2014, 2016, and 2020.
The organization labels itself “the premier research organization in the state seeking to provide nonpartisan analysis of the political landscape and its impact on North Carolina’s business environment.”
Candidate filing for all 170 seats in both chambers of the General Assembly is scheduled to start Dec. 6.