Republicans and Democrats are closely following the run-up and results of next week's governor's race in Virginia, which could serve as a bellwether race for the 2022 midterm elections.
Polls show a tight race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin, one that's drawn national attention.
It's of particular interest in North Carolina, as the two states share many similarities.
"Culturally, both states are very similar. They've got big urban areas, Richmond in northern Virginia, and they've got a lot of rural parts of the state. So we see the rural parts of Virginia and the rural parts of North Carolina vote very similarly, as we see the urban areas (do the same). So if the Republicans do win the governorship, I think that's going to give Republicans in the state of North Carolina even more confidence heading into 2022. And likewise if Democrats retain the governorship in Virginia, then Democrats are going to say, 'well it was close, but Democrats still won a very similar state,.'" said Dr. David McLennan, a political science professor at Meredith College. McLennan is also the director of the Meredith poll.
Nationally, 22 US House members have announced they will not seek another term in 2022, though some are running for different seats. Of the 22 members, 13 are Democrats, including long-time Congressman David Price, and nine are Republicans, including Congressman Ted Budd. Price is retiring, while Budd is seeking the Senate nomination.
Currently, Democrats hold a slight edge in the House, 220 seats to 212, though redistricting could play a role in shifting power. Based off the most recent Census results, North Carolina is adding an additional House seat, though maps have not yet been released.
"There's no doubt that the Republicans are going to try and create as big an advantage for that seat and as many other seats as they can. Partisan gerrymandering has been allowed by the Supreme Court, so the question is how far will they push the envelope," McLennan said.
North Carolina is represented by eight Republicans and five Democrats.
Historically, midterm elections do not have as large of a voter turnout as presidential races, though McLennan is urging voters not to understate their importance.
"Who we elect in North Carolina to go to Congress or who we elect to go to the General Assembly, could really change the polices that impact all of us, whether it's healthcare, climate, criminal justice. Any number of policies. And that's why I think North Carolinian's really ought to care about 2022, not just care about presidential elections," McLennan said.
The US Senate is deadlocked at 50 seats for each party, so the prospect of an open Senate seat is anticipated to draw significant intrigue. That will be the case in North Carolina, with high-profile candidates on both sides of the aisle vying for the seat set to be vacated by Burr. In 2020, Republican incumbent Thom Tillis narrowly held on to his seat, defeating challenger Cal Cunningham, who was derailed in part by a sex scandal..
'It's hard to imagine that the 2022 Senate race in North Carolina won't have a national component. I think eyes will be on North Carolina, and that means money will come into the state," said McLennan.