Democrats ramp up for special 2017 elections

They hope to break the GOP supermajority, which grants them veto power

UPDATE: After the time this article was written for the print edition of qnotes, the U.S. Supreme Court put the 2017 North Carolina General Assembly elections on hold. It issued a stay on the elections until it decides whether or not it will rule on an appeal by Pat McCrory, one of his final acts as governor. The elections will only go forward as planned if the court decides not to rule on the case, which would leave the lower court’s ruling in place, or if it rules in favor of that court’s ruling. We will continue to follow this story as it unfolds.

RALEIGH, N.C. —A federal court ruled in November that North Carolina would have to redraw 28 House and Senate districts by March 15, 2017 for special primary and general elections in November, and already the battle has begun.

The districts have yet to be drawn, and the decision is under appeal, but Democrats are already gearing up with a “Pipeline Project” to get out the vote and to recruit candidates to run for office.

Republicans ran unopposed last year in over a dozen elections, with Democratic challengers hard to find in light of the uphill battle they faced at the hands of districts drawn heavily in the GOP’s favor. Democrats hope fairer districts will give them a fighting chance, making a run more attractive for prospective candidates.

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The Republicans currently hold a supermajority in both the House and the Senate, allowing them to override Gov. Cooper’s veto.

Sen. Jeff Jackson and Rep. Graig Meyer have launched campaigns of their own, in conjunction with the “Pipeline Project,” to drum up awareness and support for the initiative. They have both set up pages on their websites dedicated to the upcoming elections, as well as relying on social media to get out the word.

Jackson calls his “2017 Gameplan North Carolina,” and Meyer calls his “Our Shot.”

Jackson told The Charlotte Observer that within 24 hours of the site going live on Jan. 3 he had 20,000 page views and more than 5,000 sign ups.

He also set up a Facebook event for voting day. Meyer has also turned to Facebook, launching a Facebook Live series on Jan. 2.

“This is our collaborative effort to bring North Carolina back to sanity, back to a middle,” Meyer said in that first episode. “This is a purple state, we need to get back to sane, reasonable government.”

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“That’s what people my age are looking for,” Jackson, 34, said of the role of social media in the campaign. “They want to be politically involved, but they’re not going to go to their local precinct meeting. There needs to be an alternative.”

Of the 28 districts to be redrawn, nine are Senate districts and 19 are House.

Republicans currently hold 35 seats in the Senate, to the Democrat’s 15. They currently hold 74 House seats, to the Democrat’s 46. They have held a three-fifths majority in both chambers, giving them a veto override, since 2013.

“While not every district in the state must be redrawn, almost every district near a major city will be. And despite the fact that the same folks who drew the maps last time will be allowed to draw the maps this time, the result will almost certainly be a significant increase in the number of competitive seats,” Jackson says.

“The only question is whether we can get folks to go vote in a special election.”

For more information about the Democrat’s “Pipeline Project” visit ncdp.org/pipeline-project. For Jackson’s campaign go to jeffjacksonnc.com/gameplan-2017 and for Meyer’s go to graigmeyer.com/ourshot.

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Posted by Jeff Taylor / Social Media Editor

Jeff Taylor is a journalist and artist. In addition to QNotes, his work has appeared in publications such The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing Charlotte, Inside Lacrosse, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport and has lived in Charlotte since 2006.@jefftaylorhuman.