Two Additional Orange County Early Voting Plans Being Submitted to State Board of Elections

As it turns out, the majority and minority early-voting plans presented at the Orange County Board of Elections meeting last week will not be the only ones going before the state board for ultimate approval.

The local board had a 2-1 split when discussing plans at its meeting last week that was attended by a crowd of Orange County residents asking to extend early-voting hours. Because there was no unanimous approval, the dissenting member is allowed to submit a minority plan to be considered by the state board.

Neither plan included Sunday hours, much to the dismay of many of the attendees, but the majority plan included five sites for early voting and a total of 569.5 hours.

Republican board member Bob Randall objected to the compromise between the board’s other Republican member and only Democrat. The plan Randall is planning to submit to the state board includes 530 hours of early voting.

But now two other plans will be submitted to the state board, local Board of Elections director Tracy Reams confirmed late Tuesday.

Reams said a miscalculation of early-voting hours had occurred as the compromise was reached at the end of last week’s meeting, which exceeded two hours. She said no other compromise could be reached on another plan and, therefore, the two members who originally agreed to the compromise would be submitting their own early-voting plans to the state board.

Local board chair Kathy Knight is submitting her plan that calls for 545 hours and Jamie Cox, the lone Democrat on the board, is submitting a plan with 739 hours of early voting, including on Sundays.

Reams said the two new plans would be submitted to the state board by Thursday’s deadline.

Local Boards of Elections across North Carolina have been frantically putting together revised early-voting plans with Election Day quickly approaching. The revisions were forced after the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down North Carolina’s Voter ID law last month.

While it’s commonly known as the Voter ID law, another provision limited early voting to 10 days. When the federal court struck that provision down, boards had to gather in order to approve a new 17-day early-voting plan.

At the meeting last week, several Orange County Commissioners said that the county would allocate whatever funding was needed to offer an extended early-voting schedule.

Republican members of local boards have received extra attention when approving new plans after several Raleigh media outlets obtained copies of a memo from North Carolina GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse reminding board members that “as partisan republican appointees they have duty to consider republican points of view” on early voting. That memo went on to remind board members “there is no requirement to be open on the weekends except for the last Saturday.” The memo also encouraged boards to not include Sunday voting.

When striking down the Voter ID law, the federal court criticized the law because the “new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” The court also said it could only conclude the legislature “enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent.”

There is no word on when the state board will hold a hearing for the four Orange County plans to be considered.

The original compromise will still go in as the preferred plan because it was voted on in an open meeting, but the three board members will have a chance to vouch for their individual plans as well.

Orange County Democratic Party chair Matt Hughes issued the following statement after the news of the additional plans was made public.

“It is disappointing that a majority of Elections Board members would support alternative plans that could potentially reduce the number of hours that were approved just last week, especially after a good faith compromise vote in full view of the public. The Orange County Democratic Party will be submitting a letter to the State Board of Elections asking them to consider Democratic Member Cox’s plan expanding the number of sites and hours for the 2016 General Election, consistent the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent ruling on North Carolina’s election laws, the increasing number of Orange County citizens choosing to cast their ballots during the early voting period, and also the wishes of nearly 100 attendees at last week’s meeting.”

Federal Judge Injunction on Transgender Bathroom Policy Could Impact North Carolina

The latest in the ongoing fight over transgender students and school bathrooms has come in the form of a federal judge in Texas issuing an injunction temporarily blocking the Obama administration from penalizing school districts that do not allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity.

At issue is whether federal law bans discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Education Amendments of 1972 both ban discrimination on the basis of “sex,” but it’s an open question whether that only includes biological sex or whether it also includes gender expression and gender identity. US Attorney General Loretta Lynch says it does, and she ordered school districts not to keep students from using bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity. The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over North Carolina, agreed – and ruled in favor of a transgender boy, Gavin Grimm, who had sued his school after officials tried to keep him out of the boys’ bathroom.

But the US Supreme Court put a stay on that decision pending further review and now this ruling extends that further.

Expect the US Supreme Court to take up the issue quickly. Their ruling, of course, affects North Carolina – Part 1 of House Bill 2, among other things, requires school districts to ban transgender students from using bathrooms in accordance with their gender identity, and the US Justice Department has argued that violates federal law.

When the law is ambiguous, courts are generally directed to leave it up to the executive branch to interpret the law – that would be the US Justice Department. The judge who issued the ruling on Sunday, though, says the law is not ambiguous – he says “sex” does not extend to gender identity, so discriminating on the basis of gender identity doesn’t violate federal law.

There is a proposal on the table to change federal law to include gender identity as a protected category explicitly – this is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA – but Congress so far has refused to pass it.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s communication director Josh Ellis issued the following statement on the ruling:

“The federal court decision bolsters the efforts of Governor McCrory, along with 22 other states, to protect the privacy of families and children in our school bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities. We’re also pleased that a federal court has sided with Governor McCrory’s position that the Obama administration has overstepped its authority by bypassing Congress and the courts.”

The five civil rights organizations that are involved in the lawsuit, including the American Civil Liberties Union – issued the following statement:

“A ruling by a single judge in one circuit cannot and does not undo the years of clear legal precedent nationwide establishing that transgender students have the right to go to school without being singled out for discrimination. This unfortunate and premature ruling may, however, confuse school districts that are simply trying to support their students, including their transgender students. So let us make it clear to those districts: your obligations under the law have not changed, and you are still not only allowed but required to treat transgender students fairly. The scope of this injunction has no effect on the ability of other courts or lawyers representing transgender people to continue to rely on the federal government’s interpretations of Title IX or on prior decisions that have reached similar conclusions about the scope of federal sex discrimination laws.

“The court’s misguided decision targets a small, vulnerable group of young people – transgender elementary and high school students – for potential continued harassment, stigma and abuse.”

Roy Cooper and Pat McCory Make Gubernatorial Pitch in Forum

Democratic attorney general and candidate for governor Roy Cooper and Republican incumbent Pat McCrory alternated turns pitching their visions for the state of North Carolina at a gubernatorial candidate forum hosted by the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce on Thursday in Pinehurst.

Cooper was first to take a 30-minute turn speaking to the crowd. Cooper introduced himself as a family man who was born, raised and educated in the Tar Heel state before serving in the legislature and as attorney general. But Cooper said he is now concerned over the direction of North Carolina and that pushed him to run for the state’s top position.

“Because I believe, more than ever, we need bold leadership,” Cooper said. “We need leadership that understands the issues. We need leadership who will coordinate our economic recruitment strategy. We need a leader who will be personally involved as governor.”

Cooper said it was time to unite the state and move North Carolina forward rather than continue with partisan breakdowns.

“I think people are hungry for those who can emerge from these kinds of partisan fights, ignore the personal barbs, ignore – as much as possible – the politics,” Cooper said, “and then sit down, roll up their sleeves, get something done [and] find common ground.”

Cooper said he had a history in his time as a leader in the legislature of working across the aisle to fund public education while not overburdening North Carolina’s taxpayers.

Cooper said the opportunities for business investment and growth are endless in North Carolina, but only if the state’s controversial House Bill 2 is repealed.

“Right now, we have a governor who is putting partisan, political ideology above the best interests of jobs and schools and economic development,” Cooper told the crowd.

McCrory began his half hour by remembering back to his inauguration and how the fountains at the Executive Mansion were broken. He continued rolling through examples of things he described as broken and falling apart when he took office – from school buildings to the state’s economy fighting to break out of the recession.

McCrory said he immediately got to work bringing “basic business decisions” to state government and attempting to streamline operations.

“And I had to step on the toes of both the right and the left, both the Republicans and Democrats, to make change happen,” McCrory said. “Because that’s what change agents do.”

McCrory said another area that drew the immediate eye of his administration was to trigger cuts to long-term federal unemployment benefits.

“The other thing we decided to do was pay off our debt of $2.6 billion,” McCrory said. “And the third thing we decided to do was build up the reserves of our unemployment so in case there’s another recession, we don’t increase the taxes because we’ve wiped out the unemployment fund.”

McCory did address the “elephant in the room” of HB2, which advocates have criticized as the worst piece of anti-LGBT legislation in the nation.

The bill has several provisions that limit the ability of localities to extend nondiscrimination policies beyond the state or increase the minimum wage locally. But HB2 has gotten the most attention for the provisions that require transgender individuals to use the bathroom or changing facility in government-owned businesses that match their birth certificate rather than their gender identity.

McCrory put forward a hypothetical situation in a public school if transgender individuals are able to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity that he has used before.

“To recognize a concept of gender identity to allow a boy into a girl’s shower, locker room or bathroom facility based upon what they think they are,” McCrory said, “not what they are.”

Both candidates spoke about the need to invest in infrastructure in North Carolina.

Cooper and McCrory have been locked in a virtual dead heat for governor in recent months with Election Day quickly approaching.

No Sunday Voting in Proposed Early Voting Plan in Orange County

Local Boards of Elections across North Carolina have been holding meetings recently to adjust early-voting plans after the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down provisions of North Carolina’s Voter ID law last month.

Beyond presenting a photo ID approved by the state at the polls to vote, the law that was struck down also shortened the early-voting period from 17 to 10 days, among other provisions. That led to the Orange County Board of Elections holding a meeting Tuesday to create a new early-voting plan.

For the better part of an hour on Tuesday afternoon, Orange County residents packed a room at the Board of Elections office during a public comment period asking officials to provide more hours for early voting, including on Sundays.

Maria Palmer is a member of the Chapel Hill Town Council and is one of the plaintiffs that brought the lawsuit challenging the Voter ID law. She said Sunday voting would be beneficial, especially to the growing Latino community in the county.

“We know in the Hispanic community,” Palmer said, “Sunday is one of the few days that construction workers get off and most housekeepers get off.

“We need Sunday voting.”

Among those asking for extended hours and Sunday voting was Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich. She said the commissioners had spoken since the federal court ruling and agreed to allocate the needed money to fund the expanded hours.

“As a sign of this commitment, we respectfully request that the Board of Elections create an early-voting schedule that maximizes the hours, the days and the locations for residents to vote for the November election,” Rich said when reading from a letter from the commissioners to the Board of Elections.

As the meeting continued through speaker after speaker asking for extended hours and especially Sunday voting, it immediately became apparent among the board’s discussion that was not going to happen.

The one Democratic member of the three-member board, Jamie Cox, did not suggest any Sunday hours in his proposed plan.

Cox said he based that off of previous efforts to get Sunday voting being shot down by the two other members of the board – both Republicans – Bob Randall and board chair Kathy Knight.

“One of the things that will not be popular with my party, is that my plan does not include Sunday hours,” Cox said when presenting his early-voting proposal. “That’s something we have fought for in the past, and I understand is not in the cards.”

Randall responded later in the meeting saying he was representing his party – Republicans – and that Sunday voting was not popular within that group.

Eventually, a plan from chair Knight was put forward. After approximately a dozen motions being presented from Cox, a plan was approved by a 2-1 margin with Randall objecting. All of the previous amendments from Cox hoping to expand voting hours died for lack of a second.

The room had thinned out as the meeting eclipsed the two-hour mark, but the crowd showed it still had a lot of fight over one particular line from Randall.

“The state has…bent over backwards to make voting accessible,” Randall said to a crowd that let out a collective howl as residents pointed to the strongly-worded ruling saying North Carolina had targeted African-American voters with “almost surgical precision” when crafting the Voter ID law.

Randall objected to the final plan approved by the other two members of the board, although he would not give a firm answer as to why he objected to the proposal when pressed by those still in the room.

The approved plan calls for five locations to be open for early voting.

The county Board of Elections and Carrboro Town Hall will be open from nine o’clock in the morning until six o’clock in the evening each weekday of early voting. Meanwhile, the Efland Ruritan Club, Chapel of the Cross and the Seymour Center will be open from noon until seven o’clock each evening. On the first two Saturdays of early voting, all sites will be open from nine o’clock until four o’clock in the afternoon. On the final Saturday, early voting will be permitted to run from nine o’clock that morning until one o’clock in the afternoon.

The plan also calls for polls to be open until 7:30 in the evening on the last three weekdays of early voting.

The board said that would total 565 hours of early voting.

Randall has the right to submit his own plan to the State Board of Elections, which will ultimately decide which plan to go with.

There is no timeline for that decision.

McCrory Asks for Stay in North Carolina Voter ID Ruling

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory is asking the United States Supreme Court to stay a ruling and reinstate North Carolina’s Voter ID law.

The law was struck down in a strongly worded decision from the United States Fouth Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling said provisions of the Voter ID law – which also cut early voting days, eliminated preregistration for teenagers, same-day registration in early voting and out-of-precinct voting on Election Day – “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

The ruling immediately struck down the law immediately, even as many plans were approved with Election Day approaching in November.

McCrory wrote in a release announcing the request to US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts:

“Today we have asked Chief Justice John Roberts to stay the Fourth Circuit’s ruling and reinstate North Carolina’s Voter ID law. This common sense law was upheld by the U.S. District Court. Our Voter ID law has been cited as a model and other states are using similar laws without challenges.

“Allowing the Fourth Circuit’s ruling to stand creates confusion among voters and poll workers and it disregards our successful rollout of Voter ID in the 2016 primary elections. The Fourth Circuit’s ruling is just plain wrong and we cannot allow it to stand. We are confident that the Supreme Court will uphold our state’s law and reverse the Fourth Circuit.”

The released added that a formal petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case would follow this request for a stay.

The Orange County Board of Elections is scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss a new early voting plan.

Democrats Leading Races for President, Governor and Senate in New North Carolina Survey

Democrats across North Carolina are leading their Republican counterparts in major races across the Tar Heel state, according to the newly released poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

Starting at the top of the ticket, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is leading the Republican candidate Donald Trump 45-36. Libertarian Gary Johnson garnered support from nine percent of those surveyed with another two percent going to Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

The 36 percent support for Trump is unchanged from the July survey, but Clinton’s numbers improved by three points.

At the state level, Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper is leading Republican incumbent Governor Pat McCory in the race for the Executive Mansion by a 51-44 margin.

Democratic United States Senate candidate Deborah Ross has been closing in on the Republican incumbent Richard Burr in recent months as the campaign is heating up. In the new survey numbers, Ross has a 46-44 lead over Burr.

Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen recently said on WCHL earlier in the week that some of the down-ticket races may be impacted by the campaign that Trump is running for president. The most recent PPP survey showed Clinton and Cooper with leads in their respective races, although the margin was closer than the NBC/WSJ poll. Burr was leading Ross in the PPP survey.

North Carolina has been a popular destination for each of the presidential campaigns as Election Day is approaching in November. Some analyst have called North Carolina a “must-have state” if Trump is going to win the White House.

While Clinton’s lead has expanded in North Carolina and some other battleground states, Jensen said he expects those numbers to settle back in closer where they were prior to each major party convention as the election gets closer.

PPP: Few North Carolinians Feel Safer Under HB2

North Carolina’s House Bill 2, commonly known as HB2, remains unpopular among North Carolinians, according to a newly released survey from Public Policy Polling.

The new results show that 43 percent of North Carolinians are opposed to the law, which advocates continue to call among the worst pieces of anti-LGBT legislation in the nation. That compares with 30 percent of respondents who support HB2.

The law requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom and changing facility that corresponds with their birth certificate rather than their gender identity in government owned buildings, schools and universities. The law also bars localities from extending nondiscrimination ordinances beyond the state policy and keeps local governments from being able to increase the minimum wage locally.

That negative outlook on HB2 may be playing a role in how North Carolinians view those associated with the law, specifically Republican incumbent Governor Pat McCory in his battle for the Governor’s Mansion with the Democratic challenger Attorney General Roy Cooper. PPP director Tom Jensen wrote when summarizing the numbers, “There’s a good chance that if not for HB2 McCrory would be favored for reelection at this point.”

As it stands, the survey results show Cooper with a one-point lead over McCrory.

Among those surveyed, 58 percent said they felt HB2 was hurting North Carolina, overall, and an identical 58 percent believe it is hurting the state’s economy.

Those who believe HB2 is hurting the economy is up from the last survey in June when 49 percent felt it was a drag on North Carolina. Since then, the National Basketball Association has moved the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte due to HB2.

Beyond disliking the law and its impact on North Carolina, 50 percent of respondents said they did not believe the law was accomplishing what lawmakers said was the intended goal – to make North Carolinians safer. Twenty-nine percent of respondents said the law did make them feel safer.

Supporters have maintained HB2 is “common sense” legislation that will keep women and children safe in North Carolina. Of the women who were surveyed, 54 percent said it has not made them feel safer.

HB2 is being challenged in court. At a recent court hearing on a motion arguing for a preliminary injunction, the judge asked why the law was in place since there is no enforcement mechanism.

Among other topics surveyed, North Carolinians would like to see the United States Senate move forward with Merrick Garland’s nomination to the US Supreme Court by a 60/23 margin. There is also bipartisan support with 71 percent of those surveyed in favor of increasing the minimum wage to $10 per hour and 78 percent support for barring those on the Terror Watch list from buying a firearm. In fact, a higher percentage of Republicans (81) supported that Terror Watch list ban than Democrats (78). The survey shows North Carolinians would also support a ban on assault weapons by a 51-39 margin.

You can see the full results here.

PPP: Clinton Holds First Lead Over Trump in North Carolina Since March

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is leading Republican Donald Trump in North Carolina by a 43-41 margin, according to a survey released by Public Policy Polling on Tuesday.

PPP director Tom Jensen writes when summarizing the results that this is the first lead Clinton has held in the Tar Heel state since March.

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson (7) and Green Party candidate Jill Stein (2) garnered support from nine percent of respondents combined.

The two-point margin favoring Clinton shrinks to a 47-46 lead in a head-to-head matchup with Trump.

North Carolina has been called a “must-have state” for Trump to have a chance at winning the White House.

While Clinton now leads Trump, Jensen writes that is not due to a change in favorability among those surveyed. Clinton had a 39/55 favorability rating when North Carolina was last surveyed by PPP; she now has a 40/55 rating in the newest results. But Trump saw a seven-point decline in his net popularity over that same time period, now registering at 37/58.

PPP finds that North Carolinians polled have a similar feeling to other Americans in other recent surveys, preferring a continuation of the Obama administration rather than Trump’s vision for the country at a 50/45 rate.

The undecided voters in North Carolina would be overwhelmingly in favor of a third term from President Obama rather than a Trump presidency by 33 points in a hypothetical matchup. Those same undecided voters have a 45/28 favorability rating of Clinton’s Democratic rival in the primary Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

To further state how the group of undecided voters feels about Trump, PPP reports the Republican candidate has a 1/94 favorability rating among the group.

Jensen writes that means that these voters will likely either get behind the Clinton campaign or stay home in November. Jensen adds, “At any rate it’s more likely that they’ll build Clinton’s lead than eat into it when they come off the fence, and that’s good news for Clinton given the advantage she already has.”

PPP polled several questions among Trump supporters based off of claims that he has recently made regarding the election. Those results are posted verbatim from PPP below:

-69% of Trump voters think that if Hillary Clinton wins the election it will be because it was rigged, to only 16% who think it would be because she got more vote than Trump. More specifically 40% of Trump voters think that ACORN (which hasn’t existed in years) will steal the election for Clinton. That shows the long staying power of GOP conspiracy theories.
-48% of Trump voters think that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton deserve the blame for Humayun Khan’s death to 16% who absolve them and 36% who aren’t sure one way or the other (Obama was in the Illinois Legislature when it happened.) Showing the extent to which Trump supporters buy into everything he says, 40% say his comments about the Khans last week were appropriate to only 22% who will grant that they were inappropriate. And 39% of Trump voters say they view the Khan family negatively, to just 11% who have a positive opinion of them.
-Even though Trump ended up admitting it didn’t exist 47% of his voters say they saw the video of Iran collecting 400 million dollars from the United States to only 46% who say they didn’t see the video. Showing the extent to which the ideas Trump floats and the coverage they get can overshadow the facts, even 25% of Clinton voters claim to have seen the nonexistent video.
-Trump said last week that Hillary Clinton is the devil, and 41% of Trump voters say they think she is indeed the devil to 42% who disagree with that sentiment and 17% who aren’t sure one way or the other.
We’ve been writing for almost a year that there’s a cult like aspect to Trump’s supporters, where they’ll go along with anything he says. Trump made some of his most outlandish claims and statements yet last week, but we continue to find that few in his support base disavow them.
The public as a whole is a different story though. A number of the things Trump has been in the news for lately have the potential to be very damaging to his campaign overall:
-Vladimir Putin has a 9/63 favorability rating with North Carolinians, and Russia as a whole comes in at 14/51. By a 49 point margin they’re less likely to vote for a candidate Russia is perceived to prefer for President, and by a 33 point margin they’re less likely to vote for a candidate seen as friendly toward Russia. This issue is not doing Trump any favors.
-58% of voters think Trump needs to release his tax returns, compared to only 31% who don’t think it’s necessary for him to. In every state we’ve polled recently we’ve found an overwhelming sentiment that he needs to release them- independents say he needs to 54/33.
-Even though Trump’s own voters might support the approach he took to the Khan family, only 19% overall think it was appropriate to 54% who think it was inappropriate.
-And after his reported comments last week only 38% of voters think Trump can be trusted with nuclear weapons, to 54% who think he can’t be trusted.

You can see the full results of the survey here.

It’s Time for Better Leadership in North Carolina

When the General Assembly adjourned on July 1, I hoped that were done damaging the state for the year.  But, sometimes the fallout lingers long after a disaster.

Since we finished this year’s legislative session, there’s been nonstop news about the harm done to North Carolina in the last few years of Republican legislative action.

Here are but a few examples.

You likely know the NBA has pulled next year’s All Star Game from Charlotte over House Bill 2.  What you may not be hearing or what I am hearing from entrepreneurs telling me that they are having a hard time getting out-of-state investments because funders don’t believe they can recruit the best talent to North Carolina in the wake of HB2.  One company that is poised for a major hiring push right here in the Triangle told me they may have to move out of state to maintain their funding and growth.

Meanwhile, Republican legislators took $500,000 out of the states disaster relief fund to defend HB2 in court.  There is some great irony in that because HB2 is certainly a disaster.  But, what if a hurricane hits this fall or Zika spreads north?

Last week, North Carolina was one of three states to have Voter ID laws struck down by courts.  The unanimous court decision striking down North Carolina’s law called it one of the most racially biased laws since Jim Crow.  There’s some good news in this to voters in access to the ballot.  But, unfortunately tax payers now have to foot the bill for the prolonged lawsuit adding to the millions of dollars the state has already spent defending unconstitutional laws passed by this Republican legislature.

New numbers from the North Carolina Justice Center show that the Republicans’ taxation scheme is upside down.  In 2015, those people making less than $20,000 paid 9.2 percent of their income in taxes.  But, those making over $375,000 paid only 5.3 percent.  The top one percent of taxpayers have seen their taxes cut by an average of almost $15,000 while the bottom half of taxpayers have actually seen their taxes go up.  Meanwhile, corporate taxes will be cut again to 3 percent beginning in 2017 begging the question of why they should pay a fraction of what you and I pay.

Elections have consequences and laws have consequences.  Unfortunately, too many of the consequences from our legislature have been boondoggles and disasters.  We’re wasting too much taxpayer money and not doing enough to help everyday working people.

It’s time for better leadership.


— Rep. Graig Meyer

Duke Professor: North Carolina a ‘Must Have State’ for Trump

With the amount of attention being paid to North Carolina from both major party presidential campaigns, it’s clear the Tar Heel state will remain in the spotlight leading up to Election Day.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have both made multiple stops in North Carolina as they campaign to be President of the United States.

Now, the nominees for Vice President are campaigning for the state’s 15 electoral votes.

“North Carolina is a must-have state in the Republican coalition of states,” associate professor of the practice at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy Mac McCorkle said. “It is an important state for Democrats because Democrats can basically steal it.”

Listen below to the full story with Duke’s Mac McCorkle:


McCorkle, who is a former Democratic strategist, said Barack Obama in 2008 was the only Democratic Presidential Candidate to win North Carolina since Jimmy Carter.

But McCorkle said he expects the Clinton campaign to continue targeting North Carolina going forward because that would “narrow the path to victory for Trump dramatically.”

He added that the Clinton campaign likely sees benefits to spending so much time in North Carolina, even if the state ultimately votes Trump.

“It’s like a war, [Trump] can’t go on the offensive other places because they’ve got to play defense here.”

Both candidates for governor in North Carolina – Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper and the incumbent Republican Governor Pat McCrory – have appeared at campaign events for their party’s presidential candidate this election cycle. McCorkle said that is a change from past years when North Carolina Democrats tended to distance themselves from national candidates.

“The shoe is on the other foot,” McCorkle said. “I get some relief and pleasure watching the Republicans struggle like we did about…‘What will you do about the top of the ticket?’”

McCorkle said more Americans, including North Carolinians, are turning to voting against a candidate rather than voting out of pure support for a candidate.

“This is where American politics has been heading in the last decade,” McCorkle said. “And maybe something will break this year. But if the trends seem to be intensifying, that’s what you’re going to see.

“There’s going to be way less individualistic voting for the candidates and way more straight-ticket.”

The political divide extends beyond the presidential race in North Carolina. Nearly every statewide race shows an almost 50-50 divide between Republican and Democratic candidates.

But McCorkle said everything is different this time around with Trump as the Republican nominee. He added that McCrory embracing Trump as the Republican candidate, coupled with the national attention North Carolina and McCrory have received over North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2, may ultimately hurt the incumbent in his re-election bid.

“For an incumbent Republican who wants to paint himself as a steady, moderate hand, HB2 plus Donald Trump spells bad news.”

With less than 100 days to go until Election Day, it is likely the spotlight will only intensify on North Carolina.