TRIAD — It won’t be a presidential election year for North Carolina in 2022, but that’s about all the year’s politics lacks.
Voters across the state will determine North Carolina’s new U.S. senator and may help decide which political party controls the Senate after this fall’s midterm elections. Voters also will fill the state’s expanded 14 congressional seats, though how those seats will be configured remains the subject of a redistricting challenge before the courts.
The same situation applies for the 170 seats in the N.C. General Assembly, which are under a court challenge and review based on redistricting and accusations of gerrymandering. A three-judge Superior Court panel upheld the districts in a ruling issued Tuesday, but that is on appeal.
Two seats on the N.C. Supreme Court and four seats on the N.C. Court of Appeals also will be on the ballot.
On the local level, voters in the greater High Point area will decide competitive races for sheriff in three counties. And COVID-19 will become a front-and-center issue in area school board races as candidates stake out positions for and against mask mandates.
In Guilford County, voters in the May 17 primary will decide the fate of an ambitious $1.7 billion school construction and renovation bond issue meant to transform Guilford County Schools for decades to come.
The marquee contest for the 2022 campaign season is the race to succeed retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr. The three leading Republican candidates are Rep. Ted Budd, R-13th, former Gov. Pat McCrory and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, while the Democrats have rallied around former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley.
The three GOP front-runners have local ties. Budd represents Davidson and Randolph counties in Congress, Walker is from Greensboro and represented Triad communities in Congress, and McCrory grew up in Jamestown and graduated from Ragsdale High School.
The Senate race relates to three major themes for state politics in 2022, said John Dinan, professor of political science at Wake Forest University.
The outcome of the Senate election could play a key role, along with a half-dozen other Senate races around the country, in determining which party will control the currently evenly divided U.S. Senate, Dinan said.
“Second, because all of the seats in the state House and Senate will be on the ballot, in many cases with newly drawn districts, voters will have a chance to determine whether Republicans keep their current majorities in both chambers,” Dinan told The High Point Enterprise.
The outcome of the General Assembly contests will determine whether Republicans gain a so-called supermajority in one or both chambers that would strengthen their ability to pass legislation and override vetoes by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, Dinan said.
“Third, two of the seven seats on the state Supreme Court will be on the ballot, and if Republicans win either of these judicial elections they would gain a majority on the court, where Democrats currently have a four-three advantage,” the professor said.
Both state Supreme Court seats before voters this year are held by Democrats. Republicans have a 10-5 advantage on the N.C. Court of Appeals.
Key national issues could play a role in North Carolina politics, said Hunter Bacot, professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
The pace of job creation and the direction of inflation and interest rates will lead the list of economic factors affecting the viewpoint of voters, Bacot said.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming decision on abortion cases — including whether Roe v. Wade is overturned — could become a major motivator for voters, he said.
Developments with the coronavirus pandemic and whether there finally seems to be an end point to the COVID-19 threat will remain at the forefront, Bacot said.
If the general election outcomes in statewide races this fall break for one major political party, Dinan said, it could have broad implications for local races.
“A number of candidates for state legislative offices and local offices will find that their electoral fate is affected not just by the campaigns they run and their opponents run, but will be determined to a great degree by the U.S. Senate campaigns and the turnout that will be driven by those campaigns, as well as by voters’ assessment of President Biden’s performance in office,” Dinan said.
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