In two state legislative districts in Onslow County, it’s been more than a decade since a Democrat has run.
State Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, and State Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Jacksonville, have run unopposed in the general election for the last five election cycles. But this November, each incumbent will face a Democratic challenger -- with Ike Johnson, a retired Marine Corps officer, and Joe Webb, a former high school teacher, competing for NC House Dist. 14 and NC Senate Dist. 6, respectively.
During this mid-term election season, there’s been an increase in confidence among state Democratic candidates who live in traditionally conservative, rural areas, said Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the state's Democratic Party.
"We have seen in states all across this country, in the last few months, Democrats that have run and won in districts where either a Democrat had never won or it had been a long time since a Democrat had even done very well -- significant changes from red to blue in states like Virginia, and Alabama, and Kentucky, and Oklahoma and other states," Goodwin said. "So, that has excited North Carolina Democrats in rural and Eastern North Carolina to see how Democrats in other parts of the country have fared.”
In the last mid-term election cycle, a quarter of all state legislative districts lacked a Democratic candidate. But this year, the party has launched a more than $2 million campaign to break Republican state lawmakers' supermajority, recruiting candidates to run in all 170 state legislative districts.
"We also have more precincts organized than we’ve had in a long time," he said. "It’s not just the candidates that are turning out in droves, we have party activists and supporters that are turning out in droves."