CHARLOTTE – When Wesley Harris campaigned in south Charlotte with Gov. Roy Cooper 10 days before the Nov. 6 general election, the 32-year-old long-shot Democratic candidate for the N.C. House District 105 seat felt the tide had turned in his race against incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Stone.
That day, dozens of volunteers fanned out across south Charlotte hoping to flip the district and help Cooper break the Republicans’ veto-proof super-majority in the House.
“There was confidence,” Harris said of campaigning with Cooper. “There was excitement.”
That combination turned into victory for Harris as the native North Carolinian defeated Stone 52 to 48 percent in one of 12 races where Democrats flipped a seat to break the Republican’s super-majority.
Now, the hard work of governing begins.
He ran on a platform of improving health care in the state, investing more in schools and teacher pay, and improving the state’s infrastructure. He said that is what he will work to improve.
“We are going to push that and see if we can have a bipartisan agenda for North
Carolina,” Harris said. “Republicans have control of rural North Carolina and Democrats have control of urban North Carolina, and bridging that gap is something we can work on. None of us has the power to do anything without the other. There is going to have to be some level of bipartisanship going on.”
His victory was part of the Democrat’s net gain of 10 House seats that broke the Republicans’ super-majority. Republicans hold an advantage in the House and there will be 17 freshmen Democratic House members when the 2019 General Assembly convenes in January.
Harris met with his new fellow legislators on Nov. 26 in Raleigh, and he will return to the capital in early January to be sworn in and receive his committee assignments. The 2019 session of the General Assembly starts Jan. 30.
“There are a lot of fresh (Democratic) faces and that is something both parties need,” Harris said. “We will have a new look at things and we are ready to get to work. We are from all over the state. It’s diverse in age, it is diverse in background, it is diverse in gender and it diverse in race. It’s going to be a good mix of ideas. I am excited about it.
“There hasn’t been this much hope in a long time since we have been in the super-minority since 2012. There was nothing we could do. The Republicans controlled everything. Not only did we break the super-majority, but we broke it with a few seats to spare. Now that they have to have Governor Cooper’s signature on everything, that brings everything to the table.”
When he jumped into the race, Harris was seeking a seat that Republicans had consistently won by 10-points or more. Republicans hold a 10-point registration advantage in the district at 36-26 but unaffiliated voters represent the biggest chunk of voters in the district at 37 percent.
That is what gave Harris hope.
“The first week of early votes was a little concerning because I thought Republicans were going to stay home this year,” Harris said. “That was right after the Kavanaugh hearings and their base was very energized. About the second week of early voting, you saw the tide start to turn. I was just standing out there at early voting and talking to voters, that is when Democrats really started turning out.
“But it wasn’t just Democrats turning out. In wave elections, one party really comes out and the other stays at home. This election, everyone turned out and it was pretty much like a presidential election. The last four days of the early vote, every day there was a new record turnout. That was incredible and I thought, ‘We really have shot.’ We got a huge chunk of the unaffiliated voters and some Republicans, too. That is how we were able to win and that is what we think gives us a lot of momentum going forward.”