Sep 20, 2022 - Politics & Policy

North Carolina's Dem governor eyes prevent defense on abortion ban

Roy Cooper
Photo: Sean Rayford/Getty Images

North Carolina's Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper isn't on the ballot this November, but the threat of Republicans winning supermajorities in the state legislature — empowering them to override his veto — means he might as well be.

Why it matters: In a potentially tough year for incumbent governors, Cooper — the head of the Democratic Governors Association — still has ambitious goals of winning races across the country. At home, he's the only person standing in the way of the Republican-controlled General Assembly and tighter abortion restrictions.

What they're saying: "North Carolina has become a safe place in the southeastern United States for women to come to get treatment and get reproductive health care,” Cooper told Axios. "I’ve been able to stop extreme legislation that Republicans would pass."

  • “I am going to be working to maintain that number of Democrats that I need (for) the state legislature to be able to sustain my veto.”

Driving the news: Cooper is appearing in an ad this week in support of Marcia Morgan, a Democrat running for state Senate.

  • Cooper pledges to veto Republicans' "cruel and extreme" abortion restrictions, before warning: "But I need enough senators to uphold it."

The big picture: After the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the visceral fight over reproductive rights is taking place both at the national and state level.

  • In states like California, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont, voters will decide directly on abortion-related ballot initiatives.
  • In Congress and in state legislative races across the country, Democrats are trying to harness the energy from the Dobbs decision to secure pro-abortion rights majorities.

By the numbers: In North Carolina, Republicans need to pick up two seats in the Senate and three in the House to be able to override Cooper's veto.

  • In Wisconsin, Republicans need one seat in the Senate and five in the House to achieve a supermajority.

The other side: Republicans are less interested in supermajorities and more focused on flipping control of the legislature. In Virginia, a one seat shift in the Senate could give Gov. Glenn Youngkin a majority.

  • Polling in Colorado, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington also has Republicans confident they can flip one or both chambers in those Democratic-controlled states.
  • The GOP also wants to defend majorities in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin.
  • "The RSLC is staying focused on defending our razor-thin state legislative majorities and going on offense in Democrat strongholds where voters are sick of one-party rule that is exacerbating the destruction President Biden is doing to the national economy," said Andrew Romeo, the communications director of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

Go deeper: Four states — two controlled by each party — have a governor of one party who can be overruled by legislative supermajorities from the opposing party.

  • Democratic governors in Kansas and Kentucky must reckon with veto-proof majorities in their state Houses and Senates.
  • Republican governors in Maryland and Massachusetts face the same dynamic in their legislatures.
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