Carolina Democracy

2022 Lookback: New Trends? (pt. 2)

March 06, 2023 Season 2 Episode 3
2022 Lookback: New Trends? (pt. 2)
Carolina Democracy
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Carolina Democracy
2022 Lookback: New Trends? (pt. 2)
Mar 06, 2023 Season 2 Episode 3

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy. We’re joined again today by Chaz Beasley, former North Carolina State House Rep. and 2020 candidate for lieutenant governor, for an analysis of the 2022 election. This is part 2 of the conversation, focused on persuasion. The first part of the conversation focused on turnout, so make sure to check out that episode if you missed it: 2022 Lookback: New Trends?


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Welcome back to Carolina Democracy. We’re joined again today by Chaz Beasley, former North Carolina State House Rep. and 2020 candidate for lieutenant governor, for an analysis of the 2022 election. This is part 2 of the conversation, focused on persuasion. The first part of the conversation focused on turnout, so make sure to check out that episode if you missed it: 2022 Lookback: New Trends?


Contact Us:

Follow Us:

Support the Show.

Chaz Beasley: I think it's important to remember that our rural counties are in no way homogenous. Down east counties are very different than rural counties in the mountain west, and we can't treat them the same. There are some rural areas where we could actually make some moves if we invested in them at the right time, got the right candidates that were positioned well, and really didn't just give them up because they're quote unquote rural. 

[music transition]

 JD Wooten: Welcome back to Carolina Democracy, I’m JD Wooten, and today we’ve got the second half of my interview with Chaz Beasley and his analysis of the 2022 election. Last time the focus was on turnout, this time the focus is on persuasion. He also shared his thoughts on a few more of the myths out there around election analysis and his thoughts on the comparisons between Georgia and North Carolina.

But first, the major announcement out of Raleigh last week was that GOP leadership in the state house and state senate have worked out a deal to finally expand Medicaid. This is long overdue and desperately needed, so this was absolutely a wonderful bit of news. Over the last couple of years, there was a lot of movement in that direction, but the house and senate couldn’t seem to align on when and how to get it passed. We don’t know yet what the final details will look like or whether other requirements might get slipped in, but regardless, this is a massive step in the right direction.

Now, turning to more democracy specific updates, and unfortunately this firmly falls in the category of less than exciting news to say the least, in mid-February, GOP legislators introduced a bill to propose a constitutional amendment to limit early voting to just 7 days. Currently, early voting starts the third Thursday before election day, or about two and half weeks of early voting. In 2022, over half of the votes cast were by early voting. This is a bill that literally limits voting. It doesn’t get much more anti-democratic than slashing opportunities to vote. The GOP legislators aren’t even trying to hide their anti-democratic leanings here. We’ll see where this goes, but I certainly hope it doesn’t succeed.

Next, last time we talked about the North Carolina Supreme Court’s unprecedented decision to rehear a few cases impacting democracy and voting rights that the new majority evidently just doesn’t like simply because they disagree with the decisions rendered only a month earlier. We now have the GOP legislators’ written briefs to the Court, which lay out their arguments, and sure enough, nothing new. They’re just rehashing old arguments that have already been decided in hopes that the partisan shift on the Court will give them victories where they had previously failed. And to be clear, they failed for good reason. Their past conduct was unconstitutional, and the Court ruled accordingly. 

As one prominent election law expert recently wrote, “the GOP legislators’ strategy in [these cases] is abundantly clear: to capitalize on the North Carolina Supreme Court’s new conservative majority by making virtually the same arguments that were rejected by the court’s previously liberal majority.” Again, the facts haven’t changes since late last year when the Court ruled, so there I s absolutely no reason the Court should be rehearing these cases, period. It’s nothing short of pure political partisanship and it has the potential to do lasting damage to the integrity of our Courts and judicial process.

Justice Earls wrote a powerful dissent to thar order granting rehearing in the gerrymandering case, and I want to take a moment to read some excerpts from it. She wrote: “The majority’s order fails to acknowledge the radical break with 205 years of history that the decision to rehear this case represents….[S]ince January 1993, a total of 214 petitions for rehearing have been filed, but rehearing has been allowed in only two cases.

“It has been the understood practice of this Court that … even if judges have ideological preferences and methodological differences . . . partisan loyalties [should] fade away after investiture to reveal a judiciary of men and women bound together by collegiality norms and the rule of law.”

She then notes that over the centuries, “there has been no shortage of politically controversial cases, and it is not unusual for the partisan balance of the court to shift. Respect for the institution and the integrity of its processes kept opportunities for rehearing narrow in scope and exceedingly rare. Today, that tradition is abandoned.”

Justice Earls goes on to write, “Nothing has changed since we rendered our opinion in this case [in December] … There is nothing constitutionally conservative about the Court’s decisions to allow rehearing in these cases … Not only does today’s display of raw partisanship call into question the impartiality of the courts, but it erodes the notion that the judicial branch has the institutional capacity to be a principled check on legislation that violates constitutional and human rights.”

Justice Earls then spends a few pages going through point by point the misleading inaccuracies in the Court’s order. I won’t read from that section, but suffice to say, I really hope a judge never tears apart anything I write for being so inaccurate and misleading.

Then Justice Earls concludes with this: “The consequences of this Court’s orders are grave … it took this Court just one month to send a smoke signal to the public that our decisions are fleeting, and our precedent is only as enduring as the terms of the justices who sit on the bench. The majority has cloaked its power grab with a thin veil of mischaracterized legal authorities. I write to make clear that the emperor has no clothes. Because this Court’s decision today is an affront to the jurisprudence of this State and to the citizens it has sworn an oath to serve “impartially,” “without favoritism to anyone or to the State,” I dissent.”

Justice Morgan wrote a dissent to the order granting rehearing in the Voter ID case, making many of the same arguments as Justice Earls. In closing, he quoted an 1898 North Carolina Supreme Court case, which held, “As the highest principles of public policy favor a finality of litigation, rehearings are granted by us only in exceptional cases, and then every presumption is in favor of the judgment already rendered … A partial change in the personnel of the Court affords no reason for a departure from the rule, but rather emphasizes the necessity of its application.”

You may be thinking JD, I didn’t go to law school for a reason, please quit reading legal opinions to me. Fair, but these are critically important cases and I think the powerful dissents from Justices Earls and Morgan need to be heard. I’ll leave links in the show notes for anyone who wants to read the full orders and dissents. I wish every newspaper in North Carolina would just print those dissents on their front page the week of the rehearing, which will be in mid-March. I’ll do my best to recap those hearings in a future episode and of course I’ll let you know how those cases turn out. I could probably write my summary now without waiting for the decisions, but I’d love to be wrong.

One interesting twist from last week regarding the gerrymandering opinion is that the U.S. Supreme Court has now  asked for supplemental briefing on the case. Because the state supreme court has agreed to rehear the case, the original decision is no longer final, meaning that technically the U.S. Supreme Court should dismiss the case entirely as moot. You may remember that this same case, Moore v. Harper, made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court on the radical independent state legislature theory, in which the NC GOP legislators argued that our state supreme court has no role in reviewing legislative maps to ensure they are constitutionally drawn. This is an absurd argument and flies in the face of centuries worth of precedent, but at least some justices have already made clear stare decisis and traditional norms are for suckers, at least when it doesn’t suit their preferences. Anyways, before I get too sidetracked, the point here is that the U.S. Supreme Court wants to know how the state court’s decision to rehear the case impacts the case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court only has authority to hear appeals from cases which are final, and this case is no longer final. I’m not going to hold my breath they’ll toss the case out entirely, but that would certainly be a welcomed plot twist and end to the dangerous independent state legislature theory, at least for now.

Ok, that’s enough frustrating news for one episode. Let’s turn to something a little more upbeat. Before we turn to the second half of my interview with Chaz, let’s recap the first part of the interview from the last episode. First, he talked about some rules for doing an elections analysis that I think are particularly helpful not just for a formal elections analysis, but really for any time you’re thinking about or discussing politics. His rules were:

1.      Facebook’s not your friend. Basically, just remember all the pitfalls of what you read and hear on social media.

2.      Be trendy. In other words, look how things change over time, don’t just look at one election. Compare the election to past elections. 

3.      If you do what you’ve always done, you'll have what you’ve always had. Every election is slightly or maybe even significantly different than the last one. So you can’t just say this is how elections are run. You might end up running a campaign that would win the last election but not this election.

4.      Fourth, everyone will be wrong, but not everyone has to stay wrong. No one’s perfect, I mean, obviously aside from yours truly, and we’ve all had things that we can learn from. The point is, try to learn from mistakes and fix them. 

5.      Finally, no hard feelings, only hard numbers. The numbers say what they say and can be uncomfortable. But we need look at the data and be honest with ourselves about what the numbers tell us.

Now, building on those ground rules, Chaz and I also talked about a few myth-versus-reality statements, which is where the interview picks back up today. The first three we talked about related to turnout.

The first one was, “We lost in 2022 because Democrats didn’t show up.” That’s not exactly true, although certain demographics were down so Chaz noted there’s a kernel of truth to it.

Second, “Minority and rural Dem turnout cratered.” Unfortunately, this is an area we saw some troubling numbers.

Finally, “We should base our strategy on turning out likely voters.” Chaz took issue with this because it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy and emphasized we should not be wasting money on getting people like the two of us to the polls. People like us will be there, and every stamp or digital ad spent on us is a waste of resources that could go to turning out others.

Ok, if you missed the last episode, I’d encourage you to go back and listen to the first part of that interview. Now, here’s the 2nd part of my interview with Chaz, picking up with myths related to persuasion. Hope you enjoy! 

[music transition]

JD Wooten: With me today is Chaz Beasley, former North Carolina State Representative and current finance attorney from Charlotte. Welcome, Chaz. 

Chaz Beasley: Hey JD, how's it going? 

JD Wooten: Going great, so glad you could be here today. Why don't we talk about some myths versus realities that are out there. On the persuasion and performance side, here are a couple that I think are interesting: the key to victory in every election is persuadable voters. 

Chaz Beasley: Yeah, so I really wanna talk about what persuadable even means because I think it means a lot of different things to different people. If you are persuading someone to show up, and you can pretty much bet that if they show up, they're going to vote for you, that is just as much of an important persuadable method as going to someone who may be on the edge 51 / 49, and they're kind of waffling and they're like, oh, you know, I haven't decided if I'm voting for you or for your opponent. And you give them that nudge and they vote for you. That's also important. You have to do both. But I think that it's important to remember that in North Carolina, we are a tremendously tight state. So maybe if you're talking about a state like Mississippi, for example, where the vote is super polarized, even more polarized in North Carolina, you could persuade everybody that's on that 51 / 49 tipping point one way, and it's still not going to be enough to get you over the finish line. But in North Carolina, we are in a game of inches. So if you can pick up a few of those 51 / 49 voters, in some of the rural counties in particular, and then you can actually get some people out who they're not deciding on whether or not they're voting for Cheri Beasley or Ted Budd, they're deciding on whether or not they're voting for Cheri Beasley or they're staying home, or they're going to run this errand, or they got this thing to do. That's just as much a part of the persuadable universe. But I think that we have a lot of people that focus on persuadability as the tippers, the people that are like, ah, I'm not sure. Those are important, but you gotta talk to the other ones too. You gotta talk to the ones who are deciding on whether or not they're jumping in or just staying home. 

JD Wooten: So this one I think is related then: persuasion doesn't matter, demographics is destiny. 

Chaz Beasley: Yeah this is one of those myths that needs to die. It needs to die. You know, we cannot type in numbers into an algorithm and spit out voters, okay? Modeling is helpful. Data analysis, I think we probably need to do more data analysis here in North Carolina in terms of the ability to win, particularly in some of our mid-level races that don't necessarily have the resources that our bigger races have. That being said, and I really wanna emphasize this, how people voted in 2016 is not the same way that those "types," and I hate using that term, but those "types" of people voted in 2020 and those "types" of people will vote in 2024. The whole presumption in that is that people basically vote their demographic. No, they don't. Robeson County, prime example. Robeson County used to be a reliably, overwhelmingly Democratic county. And I'm not talking about, oh, in the, the sweet buy and buy of the 1980s, like I'm talking about like 2016, you know, 2012. I'm talking about when Obama was president, right? Reliably Democratic. Now you're starting to see that county is starting to tip more Republican. But if you were to spit numbers into an algorithm and the numbers would've popped back out, you would say, this doesn't make sense. This doesn't fit the metric. That's why I say, you know, you have to treat voters as though they are in some ways, up for grabs. You gotta do things to keep voters solidly in your corner. You gotta lock down your base and also reach out to those persuadable voters of both types that we were just talking about. 

JD Wooten: I couldn't agree more. This idea that demographics is destiny, I think that if that was true, we'd have gotten there several election cycles ago and we'd be done. So it just kind of disproves itself. All right, final one: messaging explains the difference. 

Chaz Beasley: So this is probably one of the things you're going to see most on social media, right? And rarely do people say, I really wish that my party would message in ways that I disagree with. It's generally people saying people should talk about stuff that I like more. So it's important to remember that messaging a lot of times is the biggest talking point for people, but in a lot of ways, messaging is the hardest thing to quantify. It's hard to really get numbers around it. We can look at exit polling, for example. If you look at the 2022 exit polling, there were two big issues, two big issues in this past election. It was abortion. And it was inflation. Those were the two big ones. So you could say, oh, you know, how was the messaging around abortion? Well, in the US Senate race, messaging around abortion was actually relatively strong. The people who voted in the election and then did exit polling and said what was your most important issue? The ones that said that it was abortion overwhelmingly voted for Cheri Beasley. But the ones that were saying that inflation was their biggest issue overwhelmingly voted for Ted Budd. So you could say, oh, well, maybe the messaging failed on inflation, or you could that maybe people who were predisposed to voting for Ted Budd were more likely to pick up on the inflation issue that was a part of the discussion, right? So those are two different ways of looking at things. But you know, messaging I think is one of those things that we have to acknowledge. It's very difficult to nail down and it's more of the art rather than the science of politics. 

JD Wooten: I've always looked at it a bit like the cart versus the horse issue too. With the way we're so polarized on almost every issue, it's kind of like, okay, if this is the most important issue for you, then the candidate you're going to pick is probably already predetermined, especially if you're telling me you're a single issue voter and that single issue is enough to make your decision, then you can tell me which way you believe on that single issue, and I can tell you who you're going to vote for and messaging be damned. 

Chaz Beasley: Right. So yeah, I think sometimes we have to acknowledge that. Messaging is important. It's important. But sometimes it's not the easiest thing to tease out in the data. 

JD Wooten: All right, so shifting to persuasion and performance takeaways, let's compare the last two midterms. Why don't you set the stage for us in terms of who was at the top of the ticket, what kind of money was spent on these races, votes cast, that kind of thing.

Chaz Beasley: Yeah, so as many of you probably know Cheri Beasley, a Black female jurist, very accomplished, very sharp, was running against Ted Budd who has been in Congress for a couple terms, and Ted Budd won. The big story of course in every election is how much money is being spent, in North Carolina there is a lot of money being spent. And you saw in particular a big fundraising advantage for Cheri Beasley's campaign over Ted Budd's campaign, but the difference was made up by outside spending, not only on behalf of Ted Budd, but in particular against Cheri Beasley. There were millions of dollars pumped into North Carolina that were basically spent just to knock Cheri Beasley down in peg. And before anybody asks, no, I'm not related to Cheri Beasley. I get that question a lot. No, we're not related. The spending was done to try to knock her down a peg. But what you saw in the exit polls was that really voters liked her and they liked Ted Budd. The negative spending actually didn't hurt her favorability numbers. They didn't make people think that she was extreme, and it showed up in the exit polling. So that's always a big question of course that a lot of people ask. And so, you know, that was big. And the other thing of course was, you know, what were the big issues? We talked about this before, the ballgame was abortion, inflation. Over 60% of exit poll respondents said those two were the most important issues to them. We saw on Fox News that there was a lot of discussion about crime. Of course, public safety, something that we need to talk about. That's something that, you know, we need to have a plan for. But voters did not rate it as their top issue. And again, just tell you what the numbers say. It just did not play out. It was inflation, it was abortion. That was the ball game. 

JD Wooten: Yeah, and you mentioned the impact of negative ads. Now negative ads are not going anywhere because at the end of the day, somebody's decided that they work or have enough value, and that's just the part of the game right now that we live with. But taking that assumption and going to the next step, I'm sure you've been on, on these conversations and campaign strategy meetings, I know I have, when you run a negative ad and you design a negative ad campaign, you're taking a couple risks. One risk is are you wasting money on a negative line of attack that just doesn't stick? If you try and go after somebody on a line of attack that just doesn't resonate or doesn't stick because it's too audacious, too ridiculous, does it lack credibility? That's just a lot of money down the tube. And I think we saw some of that with Cheri Beasley in terms of what you're talking about, that exit polling, it just didn't stick. and then the other risk you take is if you go too far overboard, it blows back on you. You know, and sometimes that can happen in a hard way. And I don't know that we saw enough of that blow back. And I fear that as we becoming more and more polarized, and everybody retreats to your corners, there's less of that blow back that there used to be. I believe the human emotion that we associate with that is shame, and it feels like one side of the aisle... 

Chaz Beasley: Mm-hmm. 

JD Wooten: maybe doesn't trade in shame quite the way the other side does anymore, so...

Chaz Beasley: Yeah, for sure. I think the other piece, of course, is when it comes to negative campaigning to your point about how it has to kind of fit, it has to kind of make sense. I think that, and I'll speak to the Republican side of your audience, which I'm sure is huge. The ad with the guy with the deep voice talking about how such and such is a liberal. I mean, they run the ads against Joe Manchin talking about how he's a liberal, right? You know, at some point those ads just stop sticking because people have heard it, they hear it about everybody, and if that's the kind of thing that resonates with you, you're probably going to vote for the Republican anyway. But I think to your point, there has just not been a ton of evolution in advertising. I think there's a really tried and true strategy that's being used, and I don't know if it's really working anymore for a lot of campaigns. So, to your point, I think your point is spot on. At some point, these ads have to be rooted in some sort of reality about the person that you're talking about. There's nothing wrong with contrasting, right? There is a real contrast between the parties, as we were talking about before. but if you're going to do the negative ad with the guy in the voiceover saying, you know, with the person in black and white talking about how they're liberal, liberal, liberal. I mean, is that really talking to the voters that we were talking about before that are kind of on the margin? It's probably baked into the cake at this point. 

JD Wooten: Yeah, as you were saying that, sudden flashbacks in my head just hearing it from 2018. Not only the liberal, but you know, you gotta throw in some of that cue alliteration too. Meet liberal lawyer JD Wooten. 

Chaz Beasley: Exactly, exactly. I mean, yeah.

JD Wooten: Yeah, fill in the blank with whatever you want after that. You've made your introduction, now fill the next 28 seconds with whatever. 

Chaz Beasley: It's comical. It's comical. I mean, it's, it's Saturday Night Live level. I mean, it really is. I mean, if you wanted to make it Saturday Night Live skits, and they've done a lot of good ones in the past election cycle about these things. It's becoming a joke to people and there are definitely negative ads that work. Look at what happened in Pennsylvania. Federman and his negative ads say Oz is not Pennsylvanian worked, but it worked because there was a hook, right? There was a basis to run those ads and the basis was the guy still had his address in New Jersey. He was going in the stores and talking about crew dease, right? Like, these are things that are rooted in something that you can play up on. But if they would've just tried to run, you know, ads that had no connection to Dr. Oz at all, might not have been as helpful for Federman. 

JD Wooten: Now, I'm not going to lie, it's not common that you get a candidate on either side of the aisle that is just offering up that much fodder for good social media attacks. That was just, that was just brilliant. I mean, okay, so moving back to North Carolina, why don't we take a quick moment, look at some of the, kind of, overperformance, underperformance from the perspective of the US Senate race versus US House, State House, State Senate, and instead, you know, there, there are 170 different state legislative districts, 14 congressional districts. We could spend the entire season just doing this by district. Instead, what are some of your big takeaways in terms of where did we see any trends that we should be picking up on, noticing, that sort of thing? 

Chaz Beasley: Yeah, so for the congressional races, we'll start there. There were at least three congressional candidates that overperformed Cheri Beasley's performance in the US Senate race. Don Davis the first district, Wiley Nichol, and also Kathy Manning. They all got higher vote totals in their district for them than Cheri Beasley got for her. We saw that there was a real drop off among candidates that were not in competitive general elections for her, so that's a pretty telling story. Those three candidates really knocked it out of the park in what was expected was going to be a tough year. They really overperformed there. One of the things that I do wanna make a really clear point on when it comes to the legislature. I know that in the House, we'll start there, the North Carolina House where I used to serve. One vote away from a super majority. And I think that a lot of people are probably saying to themselves, oh my gosh, we're one vote away from a super majority, all is lost. We're really in tough shape. Under these maps, and I emphasize under these maps because we know that the Republicans asking for a rehearing on these current maps. The tied seat, so the seat that would make it a 60-60 house, a completely tied House, was a seat that Joe Biden won in 2020. Now, what do I mean by that, to to take away the fancy language? What I mean is if you were to take the current House districts and give every Democratic House candidate the same amount of votes that Biden got, and give every Republican candidate, the same number of votes that Trump got, it would be 60-60, and that 60th seat would be a Biden seat. Okay, it would be a Democratic seat. If, and I emphasize if, because there's a lot going on in the courts and it could change, if Democrats have a year like 2020, in the North Carolina House, it is statistically possible that Democrats could get the majority. It just is. Anybody that is concerned, I get why you're concerned because we are so close to the edge, but there were five House seats that Cheri Beasley got more votes than Ted Budd in that the Democratic candidate lost for House. Now the Senate's a different story. The Senate covers a lot more territory. The Senate is much bigger. The median seat in the Senate was a Trump plus eight seat. So the Senate under the current maps, again, emphasizing that those may change, much tougher road much tougher hill to climb, those maps will probably change. But we have to be honest about the fact that all is not lost in the legislature. And the numbers are just saying that. There were just a lot of seats that tipped the Republicans weigh this election, but that may not be the case in 2024, especially if the House seats remain the same for the 2024 elections. 

JD Wooten: Yeah. And you know, huge asterisk, I'll be updating everyone that's listening as the year unfolds, lot of moving parts in terms of which districts, we know the congressional districts are going to change, because those were only ever meant to be a single interim map. We also know in December, the North Carolina Supreme affirmed a trial court ruling that the state senate districts were unconstitutional. And so there's a outstanding order saying redraw these. We also know that the North Carolina Supreme Court, in a rather well, I'll save my critique for it on another day. Let's just say unusual agreement to rehear some stuff that was literally just decided yesterday. Who knows what's going to happen with the State House and State Senate maps. They might all be subject to be redrawn. But I do appreciate that the important takeaway here is that despite how 2022 looked, structurally, should these maps stay, there's still hope for having move in the right direction and check some of that power that the Republicans have amassed. Okay, so always an important conversation for us to have as Democrats given the way our party has been splitting recently: urban, suburban, and rural, and the turnout, what are we seeing? 

Chaz Beasley: So one of the things that we're starting to see is that in our suburban areas, they're starting to become the battleground in North Carolina. A key distinction here is that while in our urban counties, there generally is one legislator in the House or the Senate that is in the Republican party, for the most part, they're blue. And you're starting to see that it's really those suburban areas within the large urban counties as well as the surrounding counties that are really starting to become the battleground. That being said, rural counties that have large Black populations, particularly along the Virginia border and the South Carolina border, are places where because Black voter's turn out is starting to drop so precipitously that we're starting to get red counties, that again, have blue demographics because demographics is not destiny. So we have to start understanding that if we wanna stop the slide, particularly in those counties, we've got to start investing in them and investing in their candidates early, because a dollar does go a long way there. It's not like in Charlotte, it's not like in Raleigh, where they're in expensive media markets for the state. Not necessarily expensive for the country, but for the state. So the urban rural divide is one of those things that people talk about a lot, but I think it's important to remember that our rural counties are in no way, no way homogenous. They are very different in and of themselves down east counties are very different than rural counties in the mountain west. And we can't treat them the same. So we need to be talking about the urban rural divide. It's important. We also need to be talking about the rural, rural divide. There are some rural areas where we're just not investing in where we could actually make some moves if we invested in them at the right time, got the right candidates that were positioned well, and really didn't just give them up because they're quote unquote rural or they're so-called country, right? That's not the right move. That doesn't do us any favors. 

JD Wooten: Yeah, and I think one of the things that people don't always appreciate immediately is we still have to put investment in these areas despite legislative districts that may feel like foregone conclusions away from us because on the statewide races it can really still matter. So, you know, rural county, could you have found 401 more Democratic votes in 2020? Oh, you could have? Guess what, that would be Chief Justice Sherry Beasley right now. 

Chaz Beasley: Exactly. 

JD Wooten: So one of my favorite topics, the unaffiliateds, cuz of course we've gotta block them all into one behemoth group. Nah, not so much. How about this swing voters or are they behaviorally partisan or some combination? 

Chaz Beasley: Yep. So, you know, this is always a question that people like to bring up. I like to put them into two buckets. You got the free agents, so they're unaffiliated voters, and they are truly open to voting for either party. Or they're secret agents, they are unaffiliated voters, but they vote like Republicans or they vote like Democrats. The fact of the matter is the overwhelming majority of unaffiliated voters are secret agents. If you want to find free agents, you can't just look at unaffiliated voters because again, a lot of the free agents, they're not necessarily coming in and saying, oh, am I going to vote for Ted Budd or Cheri Beasley? They're saying, oh, I'm going to vote, or I'll do it tomorrow, and then tomorrow never comes, right? That's the ballgame just as much. So we've gotta really start to think differently about what persuadability means, and really start to think critically about it, because if we don't, in a state that's so close like ours, it's going to make a difference.

JD Wooten: Absolutely, couldn't agree more, and I think it took a long time for me to appreciate that when somebody's registering unaffiliated, the majority of them, behaviorally, they're going to go one way or the other. Or maybe they're split tickets, you know, maybe the mythical split ticket voter that used to exist in North Carolina. I'm not convinced they're quite as many of them anymore as there used to be. But those unaffiliated as we've gotta be careful on how we treat them as a monolith and understand the differences. So, persuasion and performance takeaways. What do we need to know?

Chaz Beasley: So one thing that we need to keep in mind is that our rural counties with large, sometimes majority Black populations, really going to become more and more important in a state where our urban counties are getting super duper blue, and some of our rural counties that are predominantly white are getting super duper red. That's going to be an important battleground that people are not talking about. They're going to talk about the suburbs, but sometimes they forget about the fact that we have blue rural counties that we need to continue to work on. You did see that the congressional that were in competitive races tended to do better than the US Senate race. But you also saw that the legislative candidates that were competitive races actually tended to underperform the US Senate race. And again, no hard feelings, only hard data. This is just what the numbers are telling us. It's not a criticism of any individual candidates. I know how hard they work, but that's what the numbers demonstrated. For some reason, the legislative races just were not getting the same number of out of these districts as even Cheri Beasley got. And compared to 2020, there was a pretty consistent level of underperformance across the board on the Democratic side. That's something that we have to admit. It's something that we have to dig into, so that we can get more of an understanding of how we can avoid this in 2024 and 2026 in 2028. 

JD Wooten: I don't have any answers to this and I hope somebody is looking at it real hard. As you just alluded to, in 2022, we had a lot of state legislative candidates who did not get anywhere close to either percentage or certainly not in absolute terms, the number of votes as the top of the ticket. In 2020, there were quite a few state legislative candidates who outperformed the top of the ticket, which in a presidential is usually unheard of. So something dramatic changed between 2020 and 2022 when you have state legislative candidates who were on the back of the ballot earning not just percentage more but absolute terms, more votes than the President and the US Senate candidate. And then we're watching this drop down in 2022. There's a story there. I hope somebody figures it out.

Chaz Beasley: Absolutely. 

JD Wooten: So closing thought. We hear a lot about looking to Georgia. Any reflections on that idea? 

Chaz Beasley: Yeah, so Georgia and North Carolina on the surface, look very similar, right? They have similar populations, about 10 and a half million people. They're both southern states with a tradition of voting for Democrats in their statewide races, but voting Republican in their presidential races. But there are key differences. It's important to remember when people say, oh, why can't North Carolina be like Georgia? Number one, their urban areas much larger share of their overall population. So we're talking about, in particular, Atlanta having a much larger share of the population than Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro. You add them up that's still not as large. The other piece is that Georgia does have a larger Black population and a smaller white population. So again, keeping in mind the turnout idea that you have to actually encourage people to get out to vote, they can get an electorate that has a larger share of Black voters in it than ours, all things being equal. And also just the fact to keep in mind that although in North Carolina we did go blue in 2008 at the presidential level still requires work. It still requires us to continue to build off of our past progress and we're still a state that has a large number of rural voters. We're much more rural than Georgia is. So keep that in mind anytime that conversation comes up, because I guarantee it will come up, probably come up on Facebook or Twitter. And remember the first rule, Facebook's not your friend when it comes to these types of myths. They can spread, but you gotta make sure that you're doing your own homework.

JD Wooten: I love it. Any closing thoughts for our listeners today? 

Chaz Beasley: Well, JD, I appreciate you covering this, but it's important to remember that these kind of analyses are not static. We could do this podcast in 2025 and everything could be turned on its head. So you have to continue to dig into numbers. You also have to remember that there are a lot of people that are doing a lot of number crunching that are really good. So I'll give you a shout out to some of the people that I like to follow on Twitter and on the socials, the tell good stories. Dr. Michael Bitzer has great numbers. Two of them people that I'm a huge fan of that are on election Twitter Miles Coleman and Drew Savicki, they have great maps. Also Unite Carolina, great Maps. I follow them because they really do a good job of crunching the numbers. And if anybody has any questions for me, you can hit me up on Twitter. You can hit me up by. I think that we definitely continue to dig into the numbers and continue to listen to the people that are actually doing the work, because there's a lot of really helpful information out there for people.

JD Wooten: Amen to all of that. Well, Chaz, thank you so much for joining us today. It's been a real pleasure. 

Chaz Beasley: Thanks, JD, I appreciate it. I'll talk to you.

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JD Wooten: Thanks again to Chaz for joining us to share his take on the 2022 elections, and thanks everyone for listening today. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, send me an email at And as always, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and share this episode with a friend. Together, we can achieve a better North Carolina for everyone!

Interview with Chaz Beasley
Closing Notes