Five things to watch on elec­tion night

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY ELY POR­TILLO ely­por­tillo@char­lot­teob­server.com Ely Por­tillo: 704-358-5041

The midterm elec­tions Tues­day could give Democrats con­trol of the U.S. House in Wash­ing­ton, break the Repub­li­cans’ veto-proof su­per­ma­jor­ity in Raleigh and usher in sweep­ing changes to the North Carolina con­sti­tu­tion, in­clud­ing re­quir­ing vot­ers to show photo ID.

Or, it might not. With polls in many key dis­tricts show­ing tight races, and turnout less pre­dictable in a “blue moon” midterm with no statewide, mar­quee of­fices like pres­i­dent or gov­er­nor on the bal­lot, poll-watch­ers could have a long night ahead of them Tues­day.

Polls close at 7:30 p.m. You can keep up with the live re­sults as they roll in statewide at www.ncsbe.gov, and fol­low the news at char­lot­teob­server.com.

Here are five key is­sues and races to watch in North Carolina on Tues­day that will have ma­jor na­tional, statewide and lo­cal im­pli­ca­tions.

CON­TROL OF THE US HOUSE

To re­take con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats. Two heav­ily con­tested, Repub­li­can-held dis­tricts cover parts of Char­lotte and its sur­round­ing ar­eas, and will help de­ter­mine which party con­trols the House next year.

Democrats are pin­ning their hopes on flip­ping seats like the 9th District, which cov­ers south­east Char­lotte and runs east through Union County to Fayet­teville. It’s an open seat, be­cause for­mer pas­tor Mark Har­ris de­feated in­cum­bent Robert Pit­tenger in the Repub­li­can pri­mary this spring.

Har­ris is fac­ing off against Demo­crat Dan McCready, a busi­ness­man and Ma­rine Corps vet­eran. The race has been hard­fought, with two vis­its on Har­ris’ be­half by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump show­ing how badly Repub­li­cans want to keep the seat. Be­tween money raised by the cam­paigns and spend­ing by out­side groups, about $14 mil­lion has been poured into the cam­paign, the costli­est House race in North Carolina.

Polls show it’s likely to be close, with the lat­est from The New York Times and Si­enna Col­lege show­ing McCready and Har­ris in a dead heat.

In the 13th District, which runs from Mooresville and Statesville east to Greens­boro, first-term U.S. Rep. Ted Budd is de­fend­ing his seat from a chal­lenge by Greens­boro lawyer and or­ga­nizer Kathy Man­ning. That race is also likely to be close, with most na­tional ob­servers rat­ing it a toss-up.

The two dis­tricts rep­re­sent Democrats’ best chance to pick up seats in North Carolina this year, and could be a ma­jor barom­e­ter of whether the hy­po­thet­i­cal “blue wave” of vot­ers ma­te­ri­al­izes on Elec­tion Day.

WILL DEMOCRATS BREAK THE SU­PER­MA­JOR­ITY?

Repub­li­cans have con­trolled the N.C. Gen­eral Assem­bly since 2010, and though Democrats re­took the gover­nor­ship in 2016, Roy Cooper has been mostly ham­strung by state law­mak­ers. That’s be­cause Repub­li­cans hold a veto-proof ma­jor­ity in the Gen­eral Assem­bly, mean­ing they can pass leg­is­la­tion with no bi­par­ti­san sup­port and no check from the gov­er­nor.

“Break the su­per­ma­jor­ity” has been a ma­jor ral­ly­ing cry for Democrats this spring, hop­ing to turn out vot­ers and raise money.

Democrats need to win four state House or six state Se­nate seats to end Repub­li­cans’ veto-proof hold on the leg­is­la­ture. They’re bank­ing on flip­ping some Meck­len­burg County dis­tricts, espe­cially those that have been re­drawn since 2016 and don’t nec­es­sar­ily fa­vor Repub­li­cans any­more.

In fact, some of the re­drawn dis­tricts, such as the 41st District in the state Se­nate, would have voted for Hil­lary Clin­ton in 2016 if the lines had been in place then.

State Sens. Jeff Tarte and Dan Bishop, Reps. Bill Braw­ley, Andy Dulin, John Brad­ford and Scott Stone are be­ing tar­geted by Demo­cratic chal­lengers. Democrats have out­raised Repub­li­cans statewide this year, and some Meck­len­burg can­di­dates have piled up a big ad­van­tage.

Demo­crat Rachel Hunt, who’s the daugh­ter of for­mer N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt, is run­ning against Braw­ley in House District 103. She’s raised $1.3 mil­lion, while Braw­ley has raised $410,000.

In north Meck­len­burg, Demo­crat Christy Clark has raised $ 796,000 to Brad­ford’s $167,000. In south Char­lotte, Demo­crat Bran­don Lofton has raised $526,000 to Dulin’s $289,232.

If the Democrats are right, flip­ping some of those seats would go a long way to their goal of end­ing the GOP su­per­ma­jor­ity in Raleigh.

AMEND­ING THE CON­STI­TU­TION

The leg­is­la­ture this year put six con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments on the bal­lot, which vot­ers will weigh Tues­day. They cover a wide range of top­ics.

One would re­quire

vot­ers to show ID at the polls.

An­other amend­ment

would en­shrine the right to hunt and fish in the con­sti­tu­tion.

One cre­ates more

rights for crime vic­tims to be no­ti­fied of in­for­ma­tion about their case and the per­pe­tra­tor, such as court and re­lease dates.

An­other amend­ment

shifts power to the leg­is­la­ture and away from the gov­er­nor to fill ju­di­cial va­can­cies.

An amend­ment would

change the com­po­si­tion of the State Board of Elec­tions and gives the leg­is­la­ture more power to choose mem­bers.

And one would for­ever

cap the state’s in­come tax at a max­i­mum of 7 per­cent.

Democrats have come out with a “Nix all Six” cam­paign against all of the amend­ments, while some groups, such as the Koch brothers-backed Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­ity, sup­port some (the in­come tax cap) and op­pose oth­ers (the ju­di­cial va­cancy amend­ment).

If they drive some vot­ers to the polls who might oth­er­wise stay home, the amend­ments could pro­vide an edge for one side or the other in a close race. And, if they pass, they could widely al­ter the state con­sti­tu­tion and al­ter the state’s bal­ance of power in fa­vor of the leg­is­la­ture.

BOND IS­SUES

The city of Char­lotte is ask­ing for per­mis­sion from vot­ers to bor­row $223 mil­lion. The bond is­sues in­clude $50 mil­lion for af­ford­able hous­ing sub­si­dies, $55 mil­lion for road and neigh­bor­hood im­prove­ments in ar­eas such as SouthPark and the Sun­set Road cor­ri­dor, and $118 mil­lion for other trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture projects.

Bond is­sues typ­i­cally pass with­out con­tro­versy in Char­lotte. In 2016, the bond is­sues passed with 70 per­cent or more “yes” votes. This year, there’s no or­ga­nized cam­paign against the bonds.

Char­lotte Cham­ber CEO Bob Mor­gan has said, how­ever, that since the bonds come af­ter the con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments, and there are big cam­paigns to vote down the amend­ments, vot­ers might get them mixed up.

If the bonds fail un­ex­pect­edly, or pass with a much lower level of sup­port, it could sig­nal voter dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the city’s plans to build more roads, bike lanes, other in­fra­struc­ture and af­ford­able hous­ing. That would be a blow to the City Council’s plans – but, that out­come isn’t likely, based on past votes.

THE NC SUPREME COURT

One of the key races this year is for a seat on the N.C. Supreme Court. Democrats think they can flip one of the seven seats, be­cause Repub­li­can Bar­bara Jack­son is up for re-elec­tion.

If Demo­cratic chal­lenger Anita Earls wins, the court will have a big­ger 5-2 lib­eral ma­jor­ity. Earls has run a well-funded cam­paign, with TV ads back­ing her across the state. There’s a wild card in the race as well: Chris Anglin, who changed his party af­fil­i­a­tion from Demo­cratic to Repub­li­can shortly be­fore fil­ing to run. State Repub­li­can lead­ers have said he’s a Demo­cratic plant try­ing to split Repub­li­can votes, which Anglin de­nies.

The N.C. Supreme Court is ob­vi­ously lower pro­file than its na­tional coun­ter­part, but can still have a ma­jor im­pact on state law. Jus­tices rule on whether con­tro­ver­sial state laws should be struck down as un­con­sti­tu­tional.

They also help to craft the rules govern­ing ev­ery­thing from po­lit­i­cal power squab­bles be­tween the branches of gov­ern­ment to crim­i­nal court and civil mat­ters such as child cus­tody bat­tles.

MATT WALSH Char­lotte Observer

Polls show an ex­tremely close race be­tween 9th Con­gres­sional District can­di­dates Dan McCready, left, and Mark Har­ris, shown here in a live WBTV and Char­lotte Observer de­bate on Oct. 10. It’s an open seat be­cause Har­ris de­feated in­cum­bent Robert Pit­tenger in the Repub­li­can pri­mary.

DAVID GOLD­MAN AP

Polls stay open Tues­day un­til 7:30 p.m. – and it could be a long night un­til close races are de­cided.

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