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Wake County’s General Assembly delegation will tilt to the GOP when the legislature goes back to work in January.
The Republicans picked up several key seats representing Raleigh and northern Wake in Tuesday’s election. Many GOP legislative candidates outspent their rivals in newly drawn, conservative-leaning districts.
Republicans will now hold six of 11 House seats and three of five Senate posts in Wake. Before the election, Democrats had a 5-to-4 advantage in the House delegation and split the county’s four Senate seats.
|John C. Brooks||46.7|
|Secretary of state|
|Superintendent of public instruction|
|N.C. state Senate|
|N.C. state House|
|Yvonne Lewis Holley||87.7|
|William “Watt” Jones||41.8|
|Wake County Board of|
|Betty Lou Ward||56.6|
The shift mirrors the Republicans’ new supermajority in the state legislature along with Pat McCrory’s win in the governor’s race and Dan Forest’s current lead for lieutenant governor. Closer to home, Democrats won two Wake County commissioners seats, but that won’t change the board’s makeup.
In northwest Wake, four-term Republican Sen. Neal Hunt easily fended off a challenge from Democrat Sig Hutchinson to keep his Senate seat in District 15. Hunt credited his campaign’s focus on job creation for the win, though he said the coattails effect from Pat McCrory’s gubernatorial campaign likely helped too.
McCrory carried rural and suburban areas of the county by a wide margin.
“North Carolinians are really interested in jobs and giving opportunity to business to create more jobs,” Hunt said Tuesday night, celebrating the victory quietly at his Raleigh home. “I’m very pleased. I think my opponent ran a good race.”
It didn’t hurt that Hunt raised more than four times as much money as Hutchinson, and he benefited from $65,000 worth of advertising bought by the pro-business, outside group Real Jobs N.C.
Money was also a factor in the attack-filled campaign for Senate District 18, where newcomer Republican Chad Barefoot trounced incumbent Democrat Sen. Doug Berger.
Barefoot had raised $916,000 by mid-October, more than three times his rival’s total. Much of that went to a barrage of TV ads that painted Berger as a “silly liberal.”
Thanks to the Republicans’ redistricting, Berger ran as an unknown figure in much of his redrawn district.
Instead of campaigning in counties near the Virginia border, the Franklin County resident had to introduce himself to a portion of Wake County stretching from Wake Forest to Fuquay-Varina.
Reached after his victory Tuesday, Barefoot said that he didn’t want to discuss the details of the hard-fought campaign but that the win was based on his key issues.
“We were running on lower taxes, a priority on student achievement in education and reforming regulation,” Barefoot said. “It seems like the voters agreed with them. … I’m ready to get to work.”
The GOP also celebrated victories in the N.C. House. Republican Jim Fulghum led fellow political newcomer Democrat Keith Karlsson for a seat in House District 49, which covers northwestern Wake. The Republican legislature completely moved the district last year, leaving the post wide open.
From the beginning, Karlsson had said his district was drawn to favor a Republican candidate, and Fulghum outspent him by 7 to 1. “I also didn’t have coattails at the top of the ticket – it doesn’t look like Dalton or Obama is going to do well in Wake,” Karlsson said Tuesday night. President Obama did end up winning in Wake County.
In House District 35, Republican Wake school board member Chris Malone squeaked out a win against challenger Lori Millberg.
Though Malone raised more money than his rival, his campaign was rocked by a police report that included statements from Malone saying he and fellow school board member Debra Goldman were in a “heated” romantic relationship.
“I’ll admit I was nervous,” he said, standing in the middle of the Wake Forest restaurant he paced for much of the night. “I think luck definitely played a part. I had plenty to worry about.
“Tonight was an amazing night. ... I think (this shows) people believe me to be a decent person.”
In quieter House races, Democrat Yvonne Lewis Holley cruised to election in District 38, which covers portions of eastern and northeastern Raleigh.
With no Republican in the race, her only challenge came from unaffiliated candidate Shane Murphy, who got on the ballot via petition after the May primaries. And in northwest Wake’s District 40, Republican incumbent Marilyn Avila easily defeated Democrat William “Watt” Jones.
Democrats fared better in the Wake County Board of Commissioners races.
Veteran incumbent Betty Lou Ward and first-time candidate Caroline Sullivan won seats by large margins, with both Democrats outpolling Republican opponents by about 65,000 votes each.
Those races attracted far less money – and attention – than the legislative contests. Sullivan raised the most with about $108,000, while the other three candidates trailed with less than a third of that total.
The reason? Regardless of who won, Republicans would maintain their majority on the county board.
Staff writer Paul A. Specht contributed to this report.