The Robeson County Republican Party held its annual county convention this week. Delegates to District and State Conventions were selected and annual business duties were fulfilled. The party also re-elected local leadership.
Before celebrating the past election cycle wins, the local party paused for a solemn moment to honor former party leader and Executive Committee member Gervais Oxendine, who passed away last year. A presentation was made to his wife Olivia in his honor. Oxendine was known for his calm demeanor and wise counsel. He will be missed.
NC Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse was the keynote speaker. Dallas’ brother, Brad, is a liberal Democrat who has held senior posts in the Democratic National Committee. News media such as Fox News and CNN like having them on their shows during which they debate opposite sides of an issue.
Since the Politico Magazine story after the election listed Robeson as one of nine counties that mattered nationwide, the local Republican Party has garnered national attention.
Voice of America, The Washington Examiner and other media have visited Robeson trying to figure out how a Democratic county could flip so far, so quickly. It’s no huge secret and nothing has really happened quickly. A trend has been occurring for a decade.
Between 2012 and 2016, new voter registration has increased by 729 voters. During the same period, Democrats lost 2,283 registrations while Republicans gained 687. Unaffiliated registration gained 2,325. This means a couple of things.
The first is that unaffiliated registration is now the most preferred voter registration. The second is that Democrats are switching their registration at rates outpacing population growth.
It also means Republicans have gained registration at the same rate as the newly registered rate. Unaffiliated registration has also gained as many as Democrats have lost.
With countywide Democratic registration at 66 percent, Republican candidates have proven they can breach the old Democrat firewall. Especially when that average is dispersed around the county with areas like Parkton at 51 percent Democratic registration, Lumberton No. 1 at 53 percent and North Pembroke at 61 percent. Voting trends are even better for Republicans.
Consider Prospect cast 75 percent of its votes for Republican Pat McCrory, 67 percent to both Sen.Danny Britt and Trump. This matches Republican heavy Lumberton No. 1, which went 67 percent for McCroy, 68 percent for Trump and 65 percent for Britt.
Wisharts is a conservative precinct that Trump and Britt carried with 74 p percent of the vote, followed by McCroy at 71 percent. Even Alfordsville, which isn’t known for its conservative lean, cast 59 percent for Trump, with both Britt and McCroy breaking 52 percent easily. This gives Democrat strategists pause.
Did the ticket ride Trump’s coattails? While there is a touch of truth to that theory as excitement for a candidate does drive turnout, the theory can be misleading and frequently overemphasized.
Studies show riding the coattails of a popular candidate at the top of the ticket helps less than you’d think and the effect diminishes the farther down the ticket you go. The actual number is for every 1 percent increase in the popular top ticket candidate receives, the fellow party candidate down ticket only gets a 0.25 percent bump, according to a 2013 University of Pennsylvania study.
What’s more, is the council of state seats lost in Robeson. This despite being between Trump and state legislative seats that won. That’s more evidence Robeson turning red was not all Trump effect.
Statistically, if a candidate won with more than 51 percent with Trump winning over 55 percent, then Trump probably helped. Otherwise, studies show they would have won anyway.
The Democratic registration rate of decline has increased each year. A year ago this week Democratic registration was 69 percent. It is now 66 percent.
In a county with 73,230 registered voters, Robeson is only 11,949 voter registration changes away from Democrats no longer having a simple majority. The super majority in the county is already gone.
Phillip Stephens is chairman of the Robeson County Republican Party.