Republicans held onto majorities in the state House and Senate picking up at least three seats in the House, but netting a loss of of a seat in the Senate.
The outcome remained somewhat uncertain until canvassing on Friday, with several key races within only a few hundred votes. Recounts may be possible, and provisional ballots remaining to be counted in one county.
NC Senate races
Democrats lost one seat but picked up two, to eat into the Republican majority in the state Senate. Republicans will now have a 28-22 edge in the General Assembly’s upper chamber, ensuring that a party line vote cannot defeat a veto from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
Whether that’s a recipe for bipartisanship or gridlock remains to be seen.
In a key win for Republicans, former Sen. Michael Lee has reclaimed his seat from Democratic incumbent Sen. Harper Peterson in New Hanover County’s Senate District 9.
Lee, who lost by 231 votes in 2018, won by 1,268.
Pickups for Democrats, however, more than offset the loss of that seat.
With an open seat in Senate District 18, in Franklin County and part of Wake County, Democrat Sarah Crawford defeated Republican Larry Norman and Libertarian Jason Loeback. Crawford won with 52% of the vote to 44% for Norman and 4% for Loeback.
In Mecklenburg County, Senate District 39 was vacated by now-U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop in 2019 when the Republican won a special election to Congress. However, with redistricting last year and demographic changes in fast-growing Mecklenburg County, the district proved fertile ground for Democrats in 2020.
Democrat DeAndrea Salvador won a relatively easy 62% to 38% victory over Joshua Niday in the district.
Elsewhere, newcomer Ernestine Bazemore held Senate District 3 for the Democrats in an elongated district that snakes through several northeastern counties over a challenge from Republican Thomas Hester Jr. Bazemore won with 52% to about 48%.
Newcomer Michael Lazzara easily held Senate District 6 for Republicans with about 65% of the vote against a Democratic challenge from Ike Johnson. The district includes portions of Lenoir and Wayne counties.
Newcomer Lisa Stone Barnes also held Senate District 11 for Republicans with about 55% of the vote, against a Democratic challenge from Allen Wellons. The district includes Nash County and part of Johnson County.
Newcomer Amy Galey successfully defended a Republican seat in Senate District 24, in Alamance and Guilford counties, from Democrat J.D. Wooten, with a 52% to 48% vote margin.
Sen. Kirk DeViere, D-Cumberland, held off a relatively close comeback bid from former Sen. Wesley Meredith, R-Cumberland, in Senate District 19, 52% to 48%.
Sen. Natalie Murdock, D-Durham, appointed in April to a vacant seat in Senate District 20, had no problem fending off a challenge from Republican John Tarantino, with the vote 84% to 16%.
NC House races
After gaining 10 seats in the House in 2018, Democrats saw Republicans strike back in 2020, netting 4 seats.
The state House will now be divided 69 to 51 in favor of Republicans, ensuring that the GOP did not recover the veto-proof supermajority it had in the House prior to 2018.
Democrats had expected to gain at least two seats through a court-ordered redistricting, but instead lost ground overall with losses in several urban and rural districts.
In the northwestern corner of the state, Republican Ray Pickett picked off Rep. Ray Russell in House District 93, in Ashe and Watauga counties.
Toward the southwestern corner, Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Haywood, lost to former Rep. Mike Clampitt, in a rematch in the far west District 119.
Republicans also picked up House District 66, were appointed Rep. Scott Brewer lost a bid to win the Montgomery, Richmond and Stanly County seat in his own right to Republican Ben Moss, by a convincing 60% to 40% margin.
While the parties have become increasingly defined by a divide between rural Republican voters and Democratic urban voters in recent years. Several urban districts turned on Democrats in 2020.
In three Republican pickups in urban districts, Erin Pare defeated Rep. Sydney Batch, D-Wake, in House District 37, John Bradford III defeated Rep. Christy Clark, D-Mecklenburg, and Diane Wheatley defeated Kimberly Hardy in Cumberland County’s District 43.
Democrats did partially offset these Republican victories with a few seat flips in their own favor.
Democrats won the hotly contested House District 63 seat in Alamance County, where newcomer Ricky Hurtado beat four-term incumbent Stephen Ross by fewer than 500 votes.
In a close Pitt County race, Rep. Perrin Jones, who had been appointed to complete the term of now U.S. Rep. Gregory Murphy in 2019, lost a bid for election in his own name to Democrat Brian Farkas, with a final margin of just 869 votes.
A good day for NC Republican legislators
Despite the close outcome in some races, the results favor Republicans on a night when Democrats and many analysts had predicting they would make gains and potentially take over control of the General Assembly.
The difference in the outcome was not lost on Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger, who issued a statement late Nov. 3.
“For the sixth consecutive elections, voters made a clear choice in support of the Republican platform of low taxes, expanded school choice and large investments in education and teacher pay,” Berger said.
“The Senate Republican majority will continue to deliver on those promises.”
Berger also struck a call for harmony, though possibly on his own terms.
“I hope over the next two years, we see a departure from the divisive partisan lawsuits that have hamstrung attempts at good faith negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in the legislature and executive branch,” he said.
He also addressed his rival in the Senate, Minority Leader Dan Blue, calling their relationship “among the most cordial and productive between opposing leaders in any state in the country.”
“I look forward to continuing that warm relationship in spite of our political differences,” Berger said.
Kirk Ross, Kate Martin, Jordan Wilkie, Victoria Loe Hicks, Laura Lee and Frank Taylor contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This article was initially posted at 1 a.m. on Nov. 4, 2020, but has been updated several times, most recently on Nov. 14.