Thursday, June 25, 2020

What effects might the "Great Cessation" have on North Carolina's counties?

By Whitney Manzo

“Doggone scary” and “grim” are two ways one state lawmaker has described North Carolina’s state budget outlook after learning that we’re looking at a $4 billion shortfall during the next two years due to the economic impacts of Covid-19. The state budget director has also said North Carolina will experience a recession soon, if it isn’t already here.

But what about county budgets? After all, these local governments have arguably been even harder hit than the state, given that counties run many of the hospitals that care for Covid-19 patients and administer many of the state’s welfare programs that help families get through business closures and unemployment. Since counties run elections, too, they’ve been doing all this while trying to administer the upcoming 2020 election cycle; no small feat in a “normal” year, it’s been a nightmare trying to safely conduct representative democracy in the midst of a pandemic.

Luckily, I have a dataset that covers all 100 North Carolina counties from 2006-2018 and I can calculate what we might expect regarding county budgets by looking at what happened from 2009-2011, the years directly following the Great Recession. Because budgets are generally decided one year in advance, we must begin our analysis one year past the start of the Great Recession (some say it began in December 2007, but we’re going to just go with 2008 as the starting year).

Looking at all North Carolina counties together, from 2009 to 2010, 70% of counties experienced a decrease in their budget. Half of those were double-digit decreases. The largest cuts were experienced by Durham County, which cut its budget from the 2008-2009 fiscal year by a shocking 40%, and Iredell County, which cut its budget by 35%. This is all the more striking considering that Durham County grew by over 5,500 people in that time, and Iredell County grew by 2,300 people. So, at the same time that these counties were experiencing rapid expansion in the number of residents they need to serve, they were also drastically cutting services.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

About Last Night: A Quick Look Back at the NC-11 Republican 2nd Primary

By Chris Cooper

Let me get the confession out of the way at the beginning: I didn’t see it coming either. I assumed the race would be close. I thought Cawthorn might pull it out, but I never imagined that he would garner almost twice as many votes as Bennett. Nor did I predict that he would win Haywood County—Bennett’s home county and her geographic base. In the end, Cawthorn won every county except Rutherford—a county that sits only partly in the 11th Congressional District. In the words of Barack Obama, it was a “shellacking;” George W. Bush might have called it a “thumping.”

I’ll also admit that the types of deep data-dives that fit with the mission of this blog may seem more interesting when races are close—after all, there’s not much need to pour over the box score from the fifth inning when one team ends the game with twice as many runs as the other. Nonetheless, it is a long season, so it’s important to step back and see what the data tell us about what happened last night, and what this might tell us about the state of politics in North Carolina moving forward. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

Assessing The Early Vote in the NC-11 2nd Primary

By Chris Cooper

Early voting has concluded for the 2nd primary in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. Although mail-in ballots will continue to be counted and accepted through election day, this seems like a good time to stop and take stock of the “early” vote in the 11th (defined for this piece as all votes accepted through the last day of in-person early voting). In addition to additional mail-in votes, there will almost certainly be some slight adjustment to the overall numbers in the coming days.

Other than a brief reminder of the candidates (Madison Cawthorn and Lynda Bennett) and their home counties (Henderson and Haywood, respectively), I’ll leave a detailed description of the players and the circumstances out of this one. If you want to catch-up, I’ve included some more description in my first post for Old North State (along with links to coverage from local and national journalists). I also wrote an entry for the London School of Economics American Politics blog that summarizes many of the players and events and an article in yesterday's Asheville Citizen Times that describes why this election is so important. Since those pieces posted, Chris Cioffi had a helpful article in Roll Call and Kyle Perrotti of the Waynesville Mountaineer and Gary Robertson of the AP posted good preview articles.

On to what we know thus far: