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This crucial battleground in the South remains ‘deeply polarized and divided’

It was a political showdown symbolizing North Carolina’s role as one of the premier purple states.

The Republican supermajorities in the state legislature earlier this month voted to override twice-incumbent Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes on a number of bills — including three high-profile measures targeting transgender youth. The bills — now in effect — will ban gender-based tutoring of minors, restrict how gender identity can be taught in schools and ban transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports.

Democrats dominated North Carolina’s federal elections from the late 19th century through the 1964 election. But Republicans capitalized on white conservative concerns about important civil rights legislation passed in the mid-1960s, and to this day have mostly dominated in federal elections enforced.

Since former President Jimmy Carter’s victory in the state in 1976, former President Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 was the only time a Democrat has won North Carolina in a presidential election. The state’s recent presidential election was a close one, with former President Donald Trump leading President Biden by less than 1.5% in the 2020 White House race. The Republicans have also won six of the last seven Senate showdowns in Tar Heel State.

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Charlotte, North Carolina skyline.

A photograph of the illuminated buildings that make up the Charlotte, North Carolina skyline. (Andrea Evangelo-Giamou/EyeEm via Getty Images)

But things are very different when it comes to gubernatorial elections: Since 1992, the Democrats have won every single election – except for one. And the Democrats were also successful in elections for other statewide executive offices.

“This ruby ​​state, which we’re always told is North Carolina, hasn’t elected a Republican attorney general since 1896,” longtime Republican strategist and communicator Doug Heye, a native of North Carolina, told Fox News.

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Michael Bitzer, Chair of Political Science and Professor of Politics and History at Catawba College, emphasized that the discrepancy between federal and state elections is “a classic historical dynamic of North Carolina politics.”

“We are deeply polarized and divided,” Bitzer told Fox News. “Both political parties can get 46-47% of the vote without really breaking a sweat. It’s the last 3-4% that can sway the election one way or the other.”

Looking ahead next year, the state’s 16 presidential electoral votes – up by one thanks to the latest census results – are expected to be hard fought again. And as Heye noted, the open gubernatorial election will be “a focal point in the country” in the race to replace the limited-term Cooper.

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“The presidential and gubernatorial elections are going to be mutually beneficial, in a financial sense, but also in the way they turn out negatively,” said Heye, a campaign veteran at a handful of high-profile Tar Heel state elections.

Adding to the confusion over the next year is the ongoing battle over North Carolina’s congressional district boundaries.

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“We don’t know what the congressional lines are going to be, and that’s a big wildcard for the state right now,” Heye noted. “Will Republicans be able to dominate the congressional delegation as they have up until now? We will see.”

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