At the beginning of this year, who could have guessed that Hillary Clinton would be up by about three points in North Carolinaor that her opponent would be Donald Trump? Or that a Washington Post poll taken in October would have Roy Cooper leading an HB 2-damaged Pat McCrory by thirteen?
Sure, a Public Policy Polling survey released Monday shows a much closer race, with Cooper up just two. But it suffices to say the top of the ticket isn’t doing as well as the N.C. Republican Party would have hopedand that has real ramifications for down-ballot races, including here in the Triangle.
Here are five Republicans whose reelections are in serious jeopardy because of Pat and Donald.
1. Richard Burr: U.S. Senate
Burr, who has served for twelve years in the U.S. Senate, entered his reelection campaign with a huge name-recognition advantage over former state representative Deborah Ross. But Burr’s association with Trump was a problem from the beginning; a PPP poll taken in March found that voters were less likely to support Burrby a whopping 26 pointsif he endorsed Trump. And lo and behold, the race is a dead heat heading into the home stretch.
2. Tamara Barringer: N.C. Senate, District 17
Barringer, who represents Cary, voted for HB 2. But, feeling the pressure after the NCAA and ACC pulled championships from the state (and from Cary, which she represents), she became the first Republican legislator to call for its repeal. Barringer represents a district won by Mitt Romney in 2012 by less than six points, and she’s facing a tough match with Wake County school board member Susan Evans, so the top of the ticket could help flip this seat in the other direction.
3. Chad Barefoot: N.C. Senate, District 18
Barefootlike his mother-in-law, N.C. Values Coalition executive director Tami Fitzgeraldis a real-deal social conservative who vocally supported HB 2. As the consequences of HB 2 have continued to hit North Carolina, however, he’s been eerily quiet. There’s good reason for that: Barefoot, who won in 2014 by less than four thousand votes out of over sixty thousand cast, is fighting for his political life against longtime Franklin County school board member Gil Johnson.
4. Chris Malone: N.C. House, District 35
Malone has also done an HB 2 disappearing act. Malone won easily in 2012 and 2014, but this year he’s facing one of the Democrats’ stronger candidates in Wake Forest lawyer Terence Everitt. Considering the financial hit Wake County has taken and the unpopularity of Trump, the GOP’s headliners won’t be doing Malone any favors.
5. Gary Pendleton: N.C. House, District 49
Pendleton, a former chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners who was appointed to the legislature in 2014, told The News & Observer he didn’t vote for HB 2 because “I wasn’t going to go down there and get harassed and harassed and harassed to vote for something I just didn’t want to vote for.” He later called for a special session to repeal it. His opponent, Cynthia Ball, has deep connections in Wake County politics. Pendleton barely won in 2014, by less than thirteen hundred votes; in a big-turnout year where Trump and McCrory will almost certainly lose Wake by a big margin, that might just be enough to help Ball deny Pendleton reelection, even if he came up on the right side of the year’s most controversial issue.