RALEIGH — A rush of candidates filed Monday to join long and crowded ballots for North Carolina’s 2020 elections, seeking to win hundreds of statewide and local positions.
The State Board of Elections and county election boards in all 100 counties began taking candidate paperwork and filing fees at midday and will continue doing so weekdays through noon Dec. 20. Nearly 130 people had filed at the state board office by closing, a board spokesman said, eclipsing the first day’s total of 108 for the 2016 elections.
The first day was marked by a court ruling that allowed filing for congressional candidates to begin Monday afternoon. A three-judge panel had recently blocked the state board from accepting candidacy notices while the judges scrutinized a new U.S. House map approved by the General Assembly. The judges ruled the replacement map would be used in 2020 and allowed filings to be turned in based on those boundaries.
Primaries will be held March 3 for multiple candidates from the same party who are vying for the same job.
Much is at stake in next year’s elections. North Carolina citizens will vote for president, governor, a U.S. Senate seat and members of the U.S. House. The other nine Council of State positions will be on the ballot, as well as three of the seven seats on the state Supreme Court, including the chief justice’s position.
All 170 General Assembly seats also will be up for grabs next year, and whichever parties win the state House and Senate will have power to draw legislative and U.S. House boundaries in 2021 based on the 2020 census data. Barring litigation, those districts would be used through 2030.
Republicans flexed their political muscles in state politics this decade by winning legislative majorities in the 2010 elections, allowing them to draw the maps in 2011.
Catawba College political science professor Michael Bitzer called 2020 a “once-in-a-true-generation kind of election that could set the tone for the competitive nature of North Carolina politics well into the future.”
Next year “could be a distinct turning point in not just the competitive (nature) of North Carolina, but where the electorate is heading in terms of a generational shift and the potential growing divide between urban, rural and suburban North Carolina,” he said in an interview.
Candidates filing Monday in Raleigh included Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and Associate Justice Paul Newby, who is seeking the chief justice’s post. Incumbents and other candidates also filed for other statewide and local judgeships.
Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey filed to seek reelection, as did Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. Republican state Rep. Holly Grange filed for governor. She’s expected to run against Lt. Gov. Dan Forest for the GOP nomination. Five people filed to succeed Forest as lieutenant governor. Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller and Steve Swenson officially filed to run for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination. Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham, whose filing wasn’t immediately recorded by the board — his campaign said he filed by mail — held campaign events Monday in Raleigh and elsewhere.
Monday also was notable because someone decided not to run. Garland Tucker told supporters he wouldn’t file for the U.S. Senate, months after announcing his bid against Sen. Thom Tillis in the Republican primary.
North Carolina’s congressional candidates can begin filing after a court briefly delayed candidate filings for the federal races while new electoral maps were drawn and considered. On Monday, a three-judge panel ordered the new U.S. House district map approved by the General Assembly last month be used in the 2020 elections, deciding on Monday there wasn’t the time to scrutinize the boundaries for extreme partisan bias.
The three-judge panel unanimously decided it was too late in the election cycle to receive evidence and testimony that would be necessary to consider detailed redistricting arguments from the lawmakers and from Democratic and independent voters who challenged the latest congressional maps.
Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway said from the bench the State Board of Elections can now start receiving filings from U.S. House hopefuls. “There’s simply not sufficient time to fully develop the factual record necessary to decide the constitutional challenges to the new congressional districts without significantly delaying the primary elections,” Ridgeway said. “It is time for the citizens to vote.”