New Year’s Day is a day in which people make goals for the coming year and often very optimistic about the future. 2014 is a time in which state Democrats and Republicans can be optimistic about the coming year and set realistic goals. Although Republicans will not be able able to repeat their amazing 2013 in terms of legislative accomplishments, it still promises to be a good year. Democrats, after a horrendous 2013, will begin to see some light at the end of he tunnel.
Below are ten predictions for 2014.
1. Governor McCrory will have a better year. After a rocky year with personnel decisions and public relations nightmares, the governor should see higher approval ratings, ending 2014 around 50%. He will benefit from an improving NC economy, as all executive leaders do. More significantly, he will benefit from the likely departures of budget director Art Pope and DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos, two lightning rods for his administration. Also, the short session of the General Assembly promises fewer fireworks than the long session and even some legislation that might soften McCrory’s tough positions on education.
2. Kay Hagan will win reelection to the US Senate, barely. Thom Tillis will win the Republican nomination after a run-off with Mark Harris. He will outspend Harris 3-1 with a lot of support coming from independent groups like American Crossroads. The money will continue coming into the state to defeat Hagan, but she will get a great deal of financial support from the DSCC and outside groups. Ultimately, this may be a $20 million campaign.
3. Outside money from Democratic-leaning groups will not, however, help in other races. The Republicans should pick up the 7th Congressional District seat held by Mike McIntyre with David Rouzer beating the incumbent in one of the nation’s nastiest House races. Alma Adams will win the special election to replace Mel Watt and win the heavily Democratic district seat. The net effect is that Republicans will have a 10-3 advantage after the 2014 election with Phil Berger, Jr. winning a close contest against Laura Fjeld for Howard Coble’s seat in Congress.
4. Gerrymandered districts will also benefit Republicans in state legislative races with Democrats making marginal gains (1-2 seats) in each chamber.
5. Healthcare will not be the top election issue, despite Republican’s desire to make the Affordable Care Act the major issue in the US Senate race and several House races. Although the economy will improve, there will be major areas of the state that will not see the improvements in employment and household income that the major metropolitan areas see. The Republicans will run on campaign issues such as continued reform to the tax system and fiscal restraint to continue the slow, but steady, economic improvements. Democrats will run on populist issues like increasing minimum wage to address the income disparity in the state.
6. The Moral Monday protests will continue throughout the state, focusing the anger and attention of supporters on the 2014 elections and benefitting, primarily, Kay Hagan. The issues discussed by the Moral Monday leaders will pivot in 2014 to issues like raising the minimum wage.
7. Many of the lawsuits brought against the state as a result of the last legislative session will work out for Republicans or be left unsettled. The case against the voucher law will be dismissed because it does not explicitly give parents funding for religious schools. The case against eliminating teacher tenure will also go the Republicans’ way. Suits against the state’s new voter laws will likely remain unsettled after 2014, but ultimately fail as the plaintiffs will have to prove the intent to discriminate against people based on race and the evidence will not be there.
8. Teachers will get get a 2 percent pay increase and the reestablishment of the pay bump for earning an advanced degree through legislation passed in the short session. The Republican rationale will be that the improved economy is producing more tax revenue, making it possible, while still being fiscally responsible. The business community will be the driving force, causing Republicans to make these changes.
9. No constitutional amendments will be on the 2014 ballot, despite the efforts of Skip Stam. He will push hard for an anti-annexation amendment to be considered by the voters, but it will be narrowly defeated in the House.
10. A bill reforming electoral redistricting will make it out of the Rules Committee in 2014 and narrowly pass both chambers of the General Assembly.
Even if all of these predictions hold true, North Carolina will end 2014 in about the same place it started the year, politically polarized with many North Carolinians fundamentally dissatisfied with their political leaders and the direction of the state.