While national politics may take a leftward tilt, conservatism in North Carolina is on the ascent. One surprise from the election that points to a desire for more conservative policy is the closeness of an attorney general race that was not expected to be competitive. A little over 12,000 votes, or less than 1 percent, separate Republican Jim O’Neill and Democrat incumbent Josh Stein. Stein, who is expected to prevail, outspent O’Neill by a ratio of 11-1 and is often heralded as a rising political star. Stein is frequently anointed by many political prognosticators to be the next governor or U.S. Senator of North Carolina. Strong support for O’Neill showed just how much the rule of law message resonated with voters and predictions of a blue wave to be a mere fallacy.
In fact, Republicans bested expectations in most every Council of State race. They won 6 out of 10. They may potentially pick up three supreme court seats and expanded their House majority in the legislature. The results reveal a vitality for conservativism across the state.
While President Donald Trump appears to have lost pivotal swing states, North Carolina for the second time in four years backed Trump’s agenda. In 2020, Trump even raised his percentage of voters he won in North Carolina and gained an additional 372,000 voters over 2016. Trump expanded the conservative message nationally and in North Carolina. The president’s improvement with minority voters, particularly in the Sun Belt, exposed the media’s continued inability to grasp the depth of his support. On top of that, the Republican Party, frequently labeled as a party for the rich, is now morphing into the party of the working class under Trump. The president received more votes than Barack Obama received in 2008 or 2012.
Mark Robinson, whose notoriety exploded after a 2018 viral video supporting Second Amendment rights, reinforced the depth of support for an anti-establishment conservative voice in North Carolina. His resounding victory in the primaries against more well financed and better-known Republicans was a shock to those not paying attention to grassroots activism. The incoming lieutenant governor easily beat out a former congresswoman and other experienced politicians in a crowded primary field. In the general election, Michael Bloomberg pumped $2.5 million into the lieutenant governor’s race in an effort to topple Robinson and his brand of conservatism. Still, Robinson ended up garnering more votes than Donald Trump and finished as one of the top vote getters in the state.
It’s still possible that conservative candidates will end up sweeping all three of the North Carolina Supreme Court races. Tamara Barringer and Phil Berger Jr. have significant leads over their opponents. Meanwhile, Justice Paul Newby has a slight 2,000 vote lead over current Chief Justice Cheri Beasley at the time of this writing, with absentee ballots still to be counted. Conservatives appear to have won an overwhelming number of District Court races, a sign of a growing backlash against the type of judicial activism that has thwarted election integrity solutions such as the addition of Voter ID into the state constitution, a process that requires legislative and voter approval.
Voters have caught on to the aggressive “sue till blue” strategy used by the Left. They see it eroding their voice in the legislature but also see it as an assault on the citizenry’s ability to redress their government and amend their own state constitution.
The amount of money spent in North Carolina to turn the state into a blue tidal wave of progressivism was far from a reflection of voter intent. Citizens across the state sent back the legislative members that championed tax cuts, spending restraints, and a more favorable employment climate that makes North Carolina a top state for business.
Much of Gov. Roy Cooper’s political tactics over the last four years were orchestrated entirely around better positioning his party to retake the General Assembly. This was clearly evident in his push for more government control and spending on healthcare through Medicaid expansion and more spending on a status quo public educational system, yet one with much weaker school choice options if he had his way. While voters reelected Cooper, still, it feels the scales tipped in favor of many of the conservative positions he ran against.