North Carolina legislative races: Sharp divisions over abortion, economy | WFAE 90.7

RALEIGH, NC (AP) — With abortion restrictions, looser gun rules and deeper tax cuts likely at stake, North Carolina Republican lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper are bickering in campaign ditches over whose political agenda will prevail in Cooper’s last two years in the office.

Democrats and their allies, led by Cooper, are looking to prevent Republicans from holding veto-safe majorities next month for the first time since late 2018. Back then, Cooper was often powerless to block laws except through litigation.

As in other divided-government states following the Supreme Court decision overthrowing Roe v. Wade features abortion heavily in several key General Assembly races. With enough Democratic lawmakers behind the governor, Cooper’s vetoes thwarted limited abortion amendments approved by the GOP-controlled legislature in 2019 and 2021.

Republican leaders are poised to consider additional abortion restrictions next year but say there’s no consensus on details just yet. That uncertainty, and the slight electoral adjustments Republicans need — three more House seats and two Senate seats to regain a veto-proof majority — are feeding into the narratives of the Democratic campaign.

“In North Carolina, women still have reproductive freedom,” Cooper said at a recent event with female Democratic congressional candidates. “And as governor, I want it to stay that way. But I can’t do it alone – I need to have a row in the legislature that would be willing to stand by me.”

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Republican leaders, who downplayed the abortion issue during the fall campaign, are optimistic of hitting those thresholds.

They say voters are focused on the national economy and the 40-year inflation peaks under the Joe Biden presidency. GOP candidates run ads blaming Washington for higher prices and talk about what Republicans did in Raleigh to counter them, such as: B. the reduction of income taxes.

“This is going to be a national election as much as it is going to be a House or State Senate election,” said Lincoln County Rep. Jason Saine, a House Republican group leader, and the GOP legislative candidates “are the ultimate beneficiaries. “

Political advisers and lawmakers from both parties expect the results of about 15 key elections will make the difference from the General Assembly’s entire 170 electoral list. Cooper is limited for re-election in 2024.

“We’re all fighting out here,” said Rep. Linda Cooper-Suggs, a Wilson County Democrat who is facing a tough challenge from Republican Ken Fontenot.

In 2017 and 2018, Republicans defeated 23 of Cooper’s 28 vetoes with veto-proof majorities. None of the governor’s 47 vetoes have since been overridden.

Democrats credit Cooper’s veto stamp with bringing Republicans to the negotiating table for negotiations, which has contributed to recent gains in economic development and clean energy.

“It’s critical that there is some balance maintained in each chamber for this to happen,” said Robert Reives, Chatham County House Minority Leader.

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Cooper said the GOP’s “worst impulses cannot be stopped” if they gain too much power. But Senate Chairman Phil Berger said a supermajority actually protects the state from Cooper’s bad decisions. Berger vetoed bills that would have increased teachers’ salaries and ensured fireworks and parades could take place on July 4, 2020 amid the pandemic.

Berger said that under a veto-proof majority, the GOP agenda would not be much different than it has been for the past four years.

“We will continue to push to lower our tax rates. We will remain committed to addressing regulatory issues,” Berger said. “We will continue to push to address the miserable situation in our education system where our children are not learning to read.”

Other approved legislation that Cooper successfully vetoed could make a comeback — such as bills requiring county sheriffs to assist federal immigration officers who want to apprehend prison inmates, eliminating gun purchase permits, and postponing dates by which mailed-in ballots must be received.

North Carolina law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except for medical emergencies of a pregnant woman. That makes North Carolina a great place for women from more restrictive states nearby to seek the procedure.

The Supreme Court ruling contributed to a surge in political activity on abortion rights. Planned Parenthood’s political arm is campaigning in 14 terms with less than $5 million in the North Carolina election.

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In the Swing 18th Senate district, which includes part of Wake County and all of Granville County, Democratic attorney Mary Wills Bode and Republican real estate investor EC Sykes are running for a vacant seat.

At last month’s press conference with Cooper, Bode accused Sykes of “wanting to ban reproductive health care in our state in every situation, under all circumstances, with no exceptions.”

Sykes said in an interview that he believes in exceptions for rape and incest, but thinks North Carolina’s abortion law “shouldn’t be more liberal than our neighboring states.”

Sykes added that “the issues and concerns I hear about the economy and the jobs are what’s happening to their income.”

Cooper-Suggs and Fontenot said abortion is not the dominant issue in their rural race in the 24th home district — the people there are more conservative and the influence of the churches remains strong.

Cooper-Suggs has garnered support from abortion rights groups. Fontenot, a church pastor who opposed abortion, narrowly lost as an independent candidate to Cooper-Suggs’ Democratic predecessor in 2018.

Fontenot said changes to welfare programs he wants would encourage families to remain intact and discourage abortion. He said he wants to be elected “to update a lot of the policies that we have that I believe can help our everyday citizens.”


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