By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on November 4, 2020
Back in 2016, when Dare County Board of Education campaigns were non-partisan events, Bea Basnight cruised to victory, running unopposed. In 2020 — following state legislation that turned those elections into partisan races — Basnight, a well-respected Democrat who currently chairs the board, was beaten by about 900 votes by Republican challenger Carl Woody II.
In a sign of the potency of the Republican brand here, Basnight, even in losing, performed better than any other Democrat of note in Dare County in this election.
In one race that a number of observers thought could be very close, NC District 1 incumbent Republican Senator Bob Steinburg defeated Democratic challenger Tess Judge with relative ease. In the entire district, which encompasses 11 counties, he defeated her by a solid 55%-45% margin, slightly more comfortable than his 53%-47% margin over Democrat D. Cole Phelps in 2018. And in her home county of Dare, Judge lost to Steinburg, an Edenton resident, by a 54%-46% margin.
Another Dare County Democrat, Southern Shores resident Tommy Fulcher, was defeated easily in the race for the four-county District 6 seat in the N.C. House of Representatives by incumbent Currituck County Republican Bobby Hanig, who won 64-36% district-wide. In doing so, Hanig captured Dare County by a healthy 59%-41% margin.
In the two contested races for the Dare County Board of Commissioners, both Republican incumbents won easily. Bob Woodard, the board’s chairman, turned back a District 2 challenge from Democrat Amanda Hooper by a 60-40% margin. That’s virtually the same size as Woodard’s 59%-41% win over Democrat John Towler in 2016.
In the 2020 District 3 race, incumbent Republican Steve House also won handily, defeating Democrat Kathy McCullough Testa, 60%-40%. That marks a change from 2016 when House defeated a well-known Democrat, Duck Town Council Member Monica Thibodeau, by a narrower 54%-46% margin in the race for an open seat.
It was a Republican sweep in the three contested Dare County Board of Education races. Aside from Basnight losing to Woody, Republican Susan Bothwell enjoyed a significant win – 56%-44% — over Democrat Jen Alexander in the open District 2 Board of Education seat. Alexander’s 2018 contest against incumbent Republican Joe Tauber was a considerably closer affair, as she lost then by five percentage points.
In the third Dare Board of Education race, incumbent Republican David Twiddy easily withstood the challenge of Democrat Charles Parker, winning 62%-38%.
At the statewide level, Democratic Governor Roy Cooper won with a somewhat closer-than-expected 52%-47% margin over Republican Dan Forest. In Dare County, however, Forest rolled up a 55%-44% win, with Cooper slightly outperforming some of the local Dare Democrats.
The U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham currently shows Tillis with a margin of slightly less than two percentage points statewide. But he carried Dare County by a much healthier 57%-40% margin. That is virtually identical to the 56%-40% margin he amassed in the county in 2014 when Tillis barely unseated incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan by about 50,000 votes statewide.
Finally, in the presidential battle, Republican incumbent Donald Trump is currently maintaining about a 1.5% lead statewide over his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden. In Dare County, Trump rolled to a much bigger win, 58%-41%.
Biden actually fared a bit better than Hillary Clinton did in 2016 when she lost to Trump by about 21 percentage points in Dare County. And he performed virtually the same as incumbent Democrat Barack Obama did against Republican challenger Mitt Romney in 2012, when he lost by 16 percentage points in Dare County.
In 2008, when Obama carried the state of North Carolina against John McCain, by a whisker-thin 14,000 votes, he managed to keep McCain’s margin in Dare County to single digits, losing 54%-45%.