Candidate filing in North Carolina opens up today and continues through Feb. 26.

Raleigh’s News & Observer reports on the state GOP’s optimism:

Rarely have N.C. Republicans seen so much interest in running for office.

Dozens of prospective candidates have come to orientation sessions put on by House Republicans. Interest in congressional and local races also is high.

“You’re going to see a huge number of candidates file on the Republican side because they smell blood in the water,” says political analyst John Davis of Raleigh.

Poll numbers for Democrats aren’t looking too hot. In the time since the 2008 election, the economy has continued to languish and North Carolina saw one of the highest tax increases in history.

Although the Republicans haven’t controlled the state legislature since 1898, increased competitive campaigns in several districts across the state opens up the slim possibility of a power shift in Raleigh.

Again, the N&O reports:

Not since 1898 have Republicans run the state legislature. But a flurry of Democratic departures in the Senate, aggressive candidate recruiting for the House, ongoing budget woes and lingering Democratic scandals could create what Republicans hope will be a new era.

In the Senate, Republicans need six seats to take control. Seven Democrats, including Majority Leader Tony Rand, plan to retire or already have left. Some, such as veteran David Hoyle of Gaston County, are in districts that otherwise lean Republican.

The GOP needs nine seats for control in the 120-member House. Minority Leader Paul Stam of Raleigh says that of the Democratic seats he’s targeting, 14 are in districts carried in 2008 by Republican John McCain.

Last month Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling found voters split. A slight majority favored Republican legislative candidates. But independents, a crucial swing vote, preferred the GOP 45percent to 23 percent.

“It’s not as if the state is overwhelmingly deciding to vote Republican,” poll director Tom Jensen said. “We’re going to see a lot more competitive races than usual.”

If (and it’s a big if considering the state’s history) either of the state legislature’s chambers switch control from Democrats to Republicans, what exactly is at stake for LGBT North Carolinians?

Questions to consider…after the jump…

  • The state GOP, especially under the leadership of House Minority Leader Paul Stam and folks like Gaston County Sen. Jim Forrester, have been chomping at the bits to get a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality on the ballot. If one chamber passes the amendment, could the other give in?
  • Other GOP-controlled legislatures have also proposed bans on domestic partner benefits and other civil, non-marriage benefits for same-sex couples. Would a GOP-controlled N.C. House or Senate do the same?
  • After a successful anti-gay marriage amendment ballot initiative in Arkansas, GOP legislators there proposed a complete ban on adoption by “unmarried partners.” The bill eventually failed, but conservative, anti-gay activists managed to get the issue on a ballot. It passed 57-43 percent. Although North Carolina has no citizen ballot initiative, might a legislative adoption ban be a possibility under GOP control here, especially considering the recent, high profile coverage of the adoption/custody case of openly lesbian state Sen. Julia Boseman (D-New Hanover)?
  • In 2009, Equality North Carolina and a coalition of educational, parent and youth organizations pushed for an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying act. The School Violence Prevention Act barely passed and was signed by Gov. Bev Perdue. Stam and other GOP legislators opposed the LGBT-inclusive bill every step of the way. If either chamber, especially the House, switched parties, could conservative legislators attempt to repeal the historic school safety act?
  • After their success in achieving anti-bullying protection for LGBT students, Equality North Carolina and other groups are gearing up for a fight on a state employment non-discrimination act. The bill has been proposed in the legislature for some years now. As support for the bill builds, what are the consequences of future movement if we do see a power shift?

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.