The new legislative districts haven’t been drawn yet, but Democrats are already trying to recruit candidates and energize supporters for the special legislative election set for this November.
A federal court last year struck down the current districts as unconstitutional, ordering the legislature to draw new districts by March 15 and hold an unusual off-year election in altered districts in November. Republicans have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the order.
The N.C. Democratic Party isn’t waiting for new districts to take shape before it lines up potential candidates. This week, the party launched a “Pipeline Project” to build interest in the 2017 election, and Rep. Graig Meyer of Hillsborough and Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte are promoting the effort on social media.
“We’re going to have a very compact campaign season,” Meyer said during a Facebook Live video Monday night. “We are going to have to get ready, get everything up and moving quickly. ... We need candidates in every House seat and every seat in the Senate.”
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Meyer’s video was part of a social media campaign he’s organizing called #OurShot. Jackson has launched a similar effort called Gameplan 2017.
Democrats left dozens of Republicans without any opposition in last year’s legislative race. About 12 of the 50 Senate races had no Democratic candidate, while only six had no Republican candidate. It can be difficult to recruit candidates in districts drawn to heavily favor the opposing party.
Democrats are hoping to break the GOP supermajority in at least one chamber – a goal they failed to reach in last year’s election.
“If we can do that, we will be able to sustain Gov. Cooper’s vetoes, and that will completely change the political landscape by putting a crucial check on the absolute power currently held by the GOP,” Jackson wrote on his website.
Democrats are also focused on turnout efforts this year, as many voters don’t participate in off-year elections. “Races that weren’t competitive in 2016 can be competitive in 2017 if we just boost our turnout,” Meyer said.
Republicans, meanwhile, have been making the case that Democrats’ poor showing in the 2016 legislative election wasn’t due entirely to gerrymandering. The House Republican caucus said on Twitter that “the N.C. House & Senate GOP received over 50 percent of the vote” when adding vote totals from all races. But that figure doesn’t necessarily measure support for the current legislature because so many incumbents in both parties were unopposed.