NC Dems won some key local elections this week as 2024 looms

Above, Ohioans voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution. Abortion wasn't on the ballot in North Carolina's local elections, but state Democrats still won victories that could give them momentum in 2024, when the issue most certainly will be. (Photo by Andrew Spear/Getty Images)

By Michael McElroy

November 9, 2023

State Democrats won mayoral races in red districts, flipped party control of town councils, and overcame efforts from a Moms of Liberty-backed candidate who sought to take over local school boards.

Election Day’s bright lights trained on Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, where voters protected abortion rights and beat back Republican efforts to gain full control over state governments. But Democrats had a pretty good night in North Carolina as well.

State Democrats won mayoral races in red districts, flipped party control of several town and city councils, and overcame efforts from Moms of Liberty-backed candidates who sought to take over local school boards and infuse them with their right-wing culture war agenda.

North Carolina is a deeply purple state, so the results were by no means a sign of any blue wave, but they brought some key gains for Democrats across the state, a result the party hopes to repeat in the next election cycle.

Here’s a brief look at some of Tuesday’s election results:

  • Democrats flipped a Republican seat on the Greenville City Council, increasing their majority.
  • They won all three open city council seats in Winterville.
  • Democrat Cyril Jefferson was elected mayor of High Point, meaning that the 10 largest cities in the state now have Democratic mayors.
  • Democrats swept the open city council races in Wilmington.
  • And they won at the town level, as well, flipping a town council seat in Harrisburg, and sweeping several council races in typically Republican areas, including Cooleemee, Mars Hill and Huntersville, where they also won the mayoral race.

National issues, smaller stage

Some local elections offered a snapshot of how national storylines play in smaller venues.

In Waynesville, three far-right candidates for town council ran as a unified slate they called “Team Waynesville,” railing against progressive issues and promising to “stand for traditional family values.”

They criticized the council’s efforts to lower emissions and insulted the council’s only gay member.

All of them lost.

“They ran a noisy campaign, filled with distortions, misinformation and outright fabrication,” journalist Cory Vaillancourt wrote for the Smoky Mountain News. “But in the end, that’s all it was — noise.”

Moms for Liberty gain little traction

The Moms for Liberty have spent the last election cycle promising to expand private school vouchers to religious schools and to ban books on race and those even mentioning LGBTQ characters.

But like in much of the rest of the country on Tuesday, it wasn’t a great night for Moms of Liberty in North Carolina.

In Iredell County, the Moms for Liberty-backed school board candidate Theresa Knight finished behind two incumbents and a first time candidate for the three spots on the ballot.

But Knight’s loss, or any of the other losses for Moms of Liberty-affiliated candidates across the country, don’t mean the group has faded away. The far-right effort to control local education boards will likely have its biggest test in 2024.

Knight told her followers that she’d like her campaign signs back, just in case.

“I’ll be coming around in the next couple of days to collect signs,” she wrote on Facebook after the election. “I plan to keep as many as I can in case God calls me to run again in two years. If you are in an area where you are able to grab any, just set them aside and I’ll come get them from you.”

Author

  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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