Election Day is less than three months away, and the stakes are pretty high for both Democrats and Republicans in this year's General Assembly elections. The GOP holds veto-proof majorities in both chambers, which the party has used on numerous occasions to override vetoes from Democratic governor Roy Cooper. Democrats only need to flip four seats in the House of Representatives and six in the state Senate to end those super-majorities, and the party is off to a good start in achieving that at least in fundraising. Smoky Mountain News reporter and BPR contributor Cory Vaillancourt analyzed the fundraising totals through the second quarter of this year and found Democrats have significantly outraised their Republican counterparts in 15 of the 24 'competitive' races he analyzed for state house seats. But outside money is expected to come in fast and furious (and in one case already has) in the final months before the election, so the situation could change rapidly ahead of November.
Two races expected to be crucial for both parties hopes this fall are in Western North Carolina, and they will both be rematches of the 2016 general elections. In District 119 (Haywood, Jackson, Swain) Republican incumbent Mike Clampitt will face Democrat Joe Sam Queen, whom Clampitt unseated two years ago. In District 118 (Haywood, Madison, Yancy) Republican incumbent Michelle Presnell faces Democrat Rhonda Cole Schandevel.
Vaillancourt discussed his findings with BPR's Matt Bush. Here are some excerpts of their interview -
What do the fundraising totals thus far tell us - It's almost an apples to oranges comparison, because in 2016 it was a presidential year. People are more energized, they volunteer more, voter participation rates are higher, as are their financial contributions. Typically in mid-terms like this one you see less money. But that's not what we're seeing this year. There's some trends in the state House that show Democrats are raising more money than at this point in 2016. And in 15 of the 24 races that I profiled, Democrats have a pretty significant advantage financially. Money isn't everything and outside money will come, but at this point in the election cycle, to see these numbers from some of these Democrats, it has to be encouraging for the Democratic party.
What about District 119, where incumbent Republican Mike Clampitt faces Democrat Joe Sam Queen - This is the fourth time these two gentleman will be competing against each other. Queen won the first two, and Clampitt won the most recent in 2016. Right now, cash on hand, Joe Sam Queen has about $56-thousand to Mike Clampitt's $10-thousand. In 2016 Clampitt had just $1-thousand on hand while Queen had $28-thousand, so you can see some ramping up of the fundraising here. But this is one of those races where outside money has and will be spent.
What about fundraising totals in District 118, where incumbent Republican Michelle Presnell faces Democrat Rhonda Cole Schandevel - It's a little bit closer than the Queen-Clampitt race. Right now Michelle Presnell has about $22-thousand on hand, and Rhonda Cole Schandevel has $21-thousand on hand. So they're pretty close. If you look at the 2016 totals, Presnell had $42-thousand while Schandevel had $33-thousand. What is interesting for me is the total for this election cycle, which goes back to January of 2017, Schandevel has outraised Presnell by almost a factor of three. Schandevel has pulled in $57-thousand to Presnell's $14-thousand.