ENC Helps Swing North Carolina toward Trump

Nov 14, 2016

North Carolina solidified its place among the “swing states” this year as Donald J. Trump took its 15 electoral votes on his way to being the 45th President of the United States.

Though some communities are still recovering from Hurricane Matthew and major flooding, eastern North Carolinians made their voices heard and helped swing this swing state toward the Republican Party’s nominee.  

Chris Thomas has this.

Donald Trump made eastern North Carolina red again – for the most part.

He won the Old North State by a slightly wider margin than Gov. Mitt Romney did in 2012 in part by reclaiming rural counties previously lost by Republicans in two, consecutive Presidential election cycles.

Dr. Thomas Eamon, political science professor at East Carolina University explains.

“There are 41 counties in what we classify as eastern North Carolina and in 2008, Obama carried 16 of those counties…in 2016, 11 of…41 counties in eastern North Carolina went for the Democratic Candidate Hillary Clinton.”

President Obama won Pitt, Hyde, Martin, and Bladen Counties in one or both campaigns. All but one of those counties were lost to Mr. Trump this year and he made more gains in Republican counties already reliably Republican.

“For example in Onslow County, in the Jacksonville area Obama had lost the candidate, with the Republican candidate (in) 2008 and 2012 getting about 62-63 percent of the vote whereas Onslow in this election went just over 2 to 1 for the Republican candidate.”

President-ElectionDonald Trump took North Carolina's 15 Electoral Votes. He and his opponent, Hillary Clinton, spent ample time in the Old North State.
Credit WWAY-TV / ABC News

The one county to remain “blue?” Pitt County. It was one of the few bright spots for Democrats on a tough Election Night.

Daily Reflector Reporter Ginger Livingston covers county government.

“It voted for Hillary Clinton and it pretty much voted a straight Democratic ballot.”

Pitt County grew by 25 percent between the 2000 and 2010 census and last year’s estimates have the county at just over 175,000 people. Livingston wonders if it’s an indication of a younger, more diverse electorate.

“I don’t know if that’s a reflection of the fact that East Carolina University is here and there was a significant campaign to recruit college students to vote in the Pitt County Elections…there was also a very strong ‘get out the vote’ movement for African-Americans in this community.”

But in races that divvy the county by district – including those for General Assembly seats – Pitt County’s political diversity becomes clearer. House District 9 Incumbent and Republican Greg Murphy kept his seat by about 15 percentage points and enjoyed bipartisan support.

“He did have Democratic supporters. I also think that he had a lot of support from the Pitt County medical community and also Vidant Hospital and ECU, he’s an instructor at ECU.”

Next door in District 8, shared by Pitt and Martin counties, things are a little murkier.

Incumbent Republican Susan Martin has a less-than-half percent edge over her opponent, Democrat Charlie Farris, according to the latest figures from North Carolina State Board of Elections.

Farris has yet to concede the race. Pitt County constituents favored Farris by about two-and-a-half percent but Wilson County’s share of District 8 voted in favor of Martin by a similar margin.  

A victory for Farris would be a major coup for Democrats.

“Representative Martin in her two terms…she has taken on some leadership responsibilities and co-chairing several committees. She is, right now, co-chairwoman of a join committee that is studying economic development with a focus on improving economic opportunities in rural areas.”

But that won’t be enough to make things easier for Roy Cooper if, after the canvass, he’s declared the winner of the race. The House and Senate are still firmly in Republican control, even if Farris wins.

Most Council of State offices will also be run by Republicans, too – including Superintendent of Public Schools, long held by June Atkinson and soon-to-be-held by Forsythe County lawyer and former educator, Mark Johnson.

Tom Eamon called it a “major surprise.”

“She is a person, of course, who has held the position for a long time. And also, insofar as charm might count and personality, she was hard to beat and yet she lost the election.”

One of the few support systems Attorney General Cooper will have, should he win the election, is in court – namely his Attorney General. Josh Stein will just barely beat his opponent, Buck Newton

In a race that defied most trends, Democrat Mike Morgan’s decisive victory gives Cooper a 5-4 State Supreme Court in his party’s advantage.

Morgan had broad support across eastern North Carolina.

None of these results are final until the county canvass Nov. 18 and the state-wide canvass Nov. 29.

I’m Chris Thomas.