Elections

Why one GOP strategist says ‘Republicans are going to have to work harder than ever’

The state seal at the entrance to the Legislative Building in Raleigh.
The state seal at the entrance to the Legislative Building in Raleigh. cseward@newsobserver.com

While North Carolina Democrats are boasting record fundraising, three Mecklenburg County Democrats have bigger war chests than incumbent Republican lawmakers, according to new finance reports.

Democrats are trying to break the GOP’s legislative “super-majorities.” That would mean the General Assembly could no longer easily override vetoes from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

The state Democratic Party this week announced a record $5.8 million cash on hand at the end of the second quarter. The Republican Party reported $1.37 million on hand. But that doesn’t include the accounts of legislative leaders such as Senate Leader Phil Berger, who has $1.6 million on hand. They typically use it to help other Republicans.

“The overall combined Republican effort between the party, the caucuses and the individual candidates has us in solid position,” said state party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse.

Rachel Hunt.jpeg
Rachel Hunt

But in some of Mecklenburg’s most competitive races, Democrats are sitting on more money than GOP incumbents:

In House District 103, in Matthews and southeast Mecklenburg, Democrat Rachel Hunt has $132,700 on hand to Republican Rep. Bill Brawley’s $88,600. Hunt is the daughter of former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt.

Brawley
Rep. Bill Brawley MLewis

In southeast Charlotte’s District 104, Democrat Brandon Lofton has $95,500 on hand, almost twice as much as GOP Rep. Andy Dulin’s $51,000.

And in Senate District 41, which wraps around west Mecklenburg from the northern to southern suburbs, Democrat Natasha Marcus has $156,000 on hand to Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte’s $137,700. That’s even though Tarte has out-raised her overall, including in the second quarter.

Republican consultant Larry Shaheen said the money on both sides could be dwarfed by outside spending by parties and other groups. Still, he said, it signals a competitive election year.

“What I’m taking away from all this is Republicans are going to have to work harder than they ever have to hold onto their seats,” he said. “No one’s saying that this wasn’t going to be a challenging year.”

What had once been safe GOP districts have become more competitive. Dulin’s District 104 went for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. So did House District 105, represented by Republican Scott Stone.

Stone has a comfortable financial advantage over Democrat Wesley Harris. He has $104,000 on hand to Harris’ $34,200.

“With these well-organized and well-funded candidates (Democrats) can compete on a level playing field with these incumbents,” said Democratic strategist Dan McCorkle.

Jim Morrill, 704-358-5059; @jimmorrill
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