Everything You Need to Know About Last Night’s Elections, in the Triangle and Beyond | News

Everything You Need to Know About Last Night’s Elections, in the Triangle and Beyond


There are lots of election-related headlines to get through after a Democratic wave began to take shape Tuesday. We’ll start local, then talk about the national picture.

THE GIST: Throughout the Triangle, elections turned out about how most observers expected.
WHAT IT MEANS: The same fault lines we saw in October in Raleigh and Durham were there last night. In Raleigh, challenger Charles Francis won the east side of town, while McFarlane won the whiter, more affluent north and west. Raleigh may be a city on the rise, but there’s clearly a sizable percentage of its population that feels left behind. Same in Durham. Farad Ali won a huge block of east and south Durham (as well as one precinct in the northwest), but Schewel dominated everywhere else, particularly in the wealthier parts of the city. I’d argue that Schewel—and Durham in general—is more conscious of these socioeconomic divides than McFarlane and Raleigh, but there’s still much work to be done.

PREDICTIONS: Yesterday, I made predictions for five races in Durham and Raleigh. As you can see, while I got the winners right, I thought these races would be closer than they actually turned out to be—especially in Durham’s Ward 3.
  • Durham Mayor: Schewel 60–40 (my prediction: Schewel 54-46)
  • Durham Ward 1: Freeman 54–45 (Freeman 53–47)
  • Durham Ward 2: Middleton 57–42 (Middleton 52–48)
  • Durham Ward 3: Alston 62–37 (Alston 51–49
  • Raleigh Mayor: McFarlane 58–42 (McFarlane 56–44)
Frank Hyman called this right. He emailed yesterday to say that Schewel and Middleton would win by bigger margins than I expected, and they did. And Wil Weldon got the Durham mayoral race almost spot on (he guessed 59–39. Thanks to everyone who emailed in.

Bragging rights: If you’re keeping score—and I am, obviously—in all of the races the INDY endorsed this year, all but two of our preferred candidates prevailed. One was a town council race in Cary, where longtime incumbent Jack Smith beat Kenneth Presting; the other was in Chapel Hill, where incumbent Ed Harrison, whom we picked, lost, and challenger Allen Buansi, whom we didn’t, emerged victorious. All of our endorsed candidates won in Raleigh, Durham, Carrboro, Hillsborough, and on the Carrboro-Chapel Hill City Schools Board of Education.


 One year ago today, Donald Trump shocked the world and defeated Hillary Clinton, thanks to an anachronistic Electoral College system that made up for his nearly three-million-vote deficit. Trump was never a popular president, but his failures with health care and the lingering Russia investigation and the myriad scandals that have consumed his utterly dysfunctional administration and his petulant Twitter rantings have all conspired to push his approval ratings into the gutter. Last night came the backlash. In races in New Jersey and especially Virginia, Democrats absolutely dominated, in what can only be described as an overwhelming rebuke of Trumpism.
  • The NYT: “The Democratic Party’s crowning success of the night came in Virginia, where Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam, an understated physician and Army veteran, won a commanding victory for governor, overcoming a racially charged campaign by his Republican opponent and cementing Virginia’s transformation into a reliably Democratic state largely immune to Trump-style appeals. Mr. Northam was propelled to victory over Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee, by liberal and moderate voters who were eager to send a message to Mr. Trump in a state that rejected him in 2016. Mr. Northam led Mr. Gillespie by nearly nine percentage points with 99 percent of precincts reporting, the widest victory in decades for a Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia.”
  • “Even though Republicans in the two states mirrored Mr. Trump’s grievance-oriented politics, they kept him at arm’s length: He became the first president not to appear on behalf of candidates for governor in either state since 2001, when George W. Bush shunned the trail after the Sept. 11 attacks.”
  • “‘We now know what a lot of us in the party already knew: The Trump message is a big loser in swing states and he hurts the G.O.P. far more than helps in those states,’ Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist and critic of the president, said in an email. ‘Suburban voters don’t like Trump and his antics energize Democrats. The myth of Trump electoral power will now start to melt. A wildly unpopular president is a big political problem for the G.O.P. in swing states.’”
  • Democrats also won the governor’s race in New Jersey and retained the New York City mayor’s office, as was expected. Maine voters also overwhelmingly backed Medicaid expansion, against their Trump-loving governor’s wishes.
  • The wave didn’t just propel Northam in Virginia. The Democrats, who needed seventeen seats to retake the House of Delegates—a seemingly unthinkable task—have won at least fourteen, with five races too close to call. If the current margins stand, the House of Delegates will go from a Republican supermajority to a 50–50 split. In North Carolina, that gives Democrats hope.

  • One of those Democrats was the boyfriend of the news anchor who was gunned down on live television last year. He ran on a gun-control platform and defeated an NRA favorite. Another was an even more remarkable story: Virginia’s most socially conservative lawmaker, the author of that state’s bathroom bill and an unapologetic homophobe, was defeated by Danica Roem, who will be the first openly transgender state legislator. Throughout the campaign, Robert Marshall refused to debate Roem and referred to her using male pronouns; he attacked her gender identity in ads. And then he lost by nine points. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
TRUMP REACTS:  Just before giving a speech to the South Korean legislative assembly, Donald Trump took to Twitter to address the GOP’s losses. Well, sort of. After recording a phone message for Gillespie and touting him on Twitter, Trump tweeted this:

  • As WaPo writer Phillip Bump puts it, “This was not a wise tweet. … Trump’s tweet distancing himself from Gillespie sugarcoats the election in a way that may make Trump feel better but probably isn’t fooling anyone on Capitol Hill. His claim that the GOP won four of four federal races misses a few important points. The first is that those races were in Republican-held districts. The second is that the Democrats saw big gains in most of those races relative to past elections. The third is that the figure is actually four of five; Trump likes to ignore a race in California won by the Democrats. But it also does something very dangerous for Trump right now. It shows, yet again, that he isn’t loyal to his political partners.”
  • Trump wasn’t the only one to immediately throw Gillespie under the bus: “Shortly after the loss, President Donald Trump and his top allies began spinning the result as the result of Gillespie being insufficiently obedient to and appreciative of the Trump agenda. Laura Ingraham, the Trump-adoring cable news host, accused Gillespie of playing ‘footsie with conservative populism’ without fully embracing it. Breitbart, called him a ‘Republican swamp thing.’ A staffer for Corey Stewart, the conservative candidate who barely lost to Gillespie in the GOP primary, told Fox News that, ‘Gillespie didn't speak to populist issues early enough in the campaign.’”

WHAT IT MEANS: If you’re a Republican in a swing state or a swing district, you’re in something of a bind. The president’s bombast and faux-populism will get you crushed in urban and suburban areas. But how far can you really distance yourself from him, given how much support he has among the Republican base? That was the quandary Gillespie ran headlong into. Expect to see a bunch of congressional Republicans decide to retire in the next few weeks. Expect to see Republican infighting—between the Bannon and McConnell wings of the party—escalate. Expect to see Republican senators openly buck the president, which may hinder the tax reform proposal. Expect Democrats, with a fresh batch of enthusiasm, to raise a bunch of money. Expect to see Democratic challenger in what are presumed to be safe Republican seats. And, unless Trump’s popularity makes a big comeback, expect to see the Democrats take the U.S. House next year. (Caveat: a year is a long time in politics, and a lot can change.)

This post was excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.

Add a comment