With President Donald Trump refusing to concede and many races still on a razor’s edge as record numbers of mail-in ballots are counted, the post-election period has been stressful for many Americans.
But Kathy Manning, the Greensboro attorney and businesswoman who won the Sixth Congressional District race last week, is already thinking about next steps.
“I would rather be experiencing what I’m experiencing this time than what I lived through last time,” Manning told Policy Watch during an interview Friday.
In 2018, Manning, a Democrat, lost her bid to unseat Rep. Tedd Budd (R-NC) in the 13th Congressional district. But after court-ordered redistricting made the Sixth friendlier territory for Democrats and helped convince GOP Rep. Mark Walker not to run again, Manning took 62% of the vote in a contest with Republican Lee Haywood, according to complete but unofficial results from the state Board of Elections.
Many Democrats across the state and country weren’t as fortunate.
Though polls suggested a “blue wave” could be in offing, Democrats failed to take a majority in the state Senate and lost ground in the U.S. House; control of the U.S. Senate may now hinge on a pair of runoffs in Georgia. Here in North Carolina, Democrat Cal Cunningham lost his challenge to Republican Sen. Thom Tillis despite at least one late poll that showed him up by 10 points.
“I’ve had all kinds of conversations over the last few days about what we should do differently, what may have impacted this race or that race,” Manning said. “I think it’s important for us to do a thorough evaluation — find out what caused the results that we have and not go by anecdotal data but really do a deep dive into what happened. What messages didn’t get out? What are people looking for? And what should we be looking for in the future?”
But the full picture is far from clear, Manning said, when many races haven’t even been decided.
“Let’s not jump the gun,” she said. “There are lots of votes being counted in different places around the country. As you know, right here in North Carolina ballots are going to be counted as long as they’re received by the 12th. There are a lot more ballots that could come in. A lot of races could be changed.”
As Policy Watch has reported, the counting continues in North Carolina with more than 160,000 votes still outstanding. The remaining mail-in and provisional ballots aren’t likely to change the results of the presidential, U.S. House, Senate or gubernatorial races in North Carolina, which were won by large enough margins to remain stable. But there are some important down-ballot races for which they could prove decisive — most prominently the races for state Attorney General and Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court.
“The game’s not over yet — that’s Number One,” Manning said. “Number Two, I know no matter how the ballots look we’re still going to have control of the House. And it looks like we’re going to have Joe Biden in the White House. So I think there are lots of good things to look forward to. We’ve got Governor Cooper staying where he is, which is a great thing. And we’ve got a lot of other great people who we’re hoping will still get across the finish line. We will continue to do the best with what we have.”
Record mail-in voting in this pandemic election year has contributed to slim margins in some races that continue to change as additional ballots are received and tallied. The continued controversy over changes to the U.S. Postal Service that have slowed mail is something Congress is going to have to address, Manning said.
U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, like Manning, hails from Greensboro. As Policy Watch reported, their shared hometown is featured in a federal lawsuit filed last week over mail processing.
As part of the suit, lawyers for the group Vote Forward listed thousands of ballots processed in the Greensboro and Mid-Carolinas in the Charlotte area that did not have a destination scan to show that they had been delivered. The suit asks a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to order postal facilities, including the two in North Carolina, to look for absentee ballots that haven’t been delivered to local elections boards.
“It’s an outrageous result,” Manning said. “Bad enough for the people who applied for ballots and didn’t receive them. At least they had the opportunity to go vote in person. I myself have friends who have called me and said, ‘I’ve applied twice for a ballot and still have received it.’ But for people who received their ballots, mailed them in and the ballots were never received, that’s an even worse situation because people didn’t have the opportunity to vote. They were disenfranchised.”
The incoming Congress should pursue a thorough investigation and demand accountability, Manning said.
“I think there ought to be a task force that does a data-driven study on how many ballots were requested and how many people didn’t get the ballots they requested,” she said. “Look at the percentages and see if we can determine what happened to those ballots.”
Like most Americans, she said, she trusts and supports mail carriers. But it’s clear there is some problem at a higher level she said.
“One of the things we’ve known in the past is that of all government agencies, people have had the most faith in the U.S. Postal Service,” Manning said. “There has been a dramatic change over the last six months. We don’t know all the reasons why.”
Manning said she has herself noticed mail that was sent but never received by her campaign and bills that came to her office more than a month after they were sent.
“I think it’s important for us to spend the time and the resources to get to the bottom of what happened and figure out a fair way to rectify this problem,” Manning said.
That will be one of many problems on the new Congressional agenda, Manning said — and it won’t be any easier with a new conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
“Today I just happen to be wearing a locket a supporter sent me with a beautiful picture of [late Supreme Court Justice] Ruth Bader Ginsburg on it,” Manning said. “The loss of Justice Ginsburg was a loss we we will feel for years to come. She was a true champion for justice and equal rights. We know with the new composition of the court and the new justice whose confirmation was rushed through, we have a lot of things that are at risk now.”
Many things important to Americans are potentially in peril, Manning said, from the Affordable Care Act and women’s reproductive rights to voter protections and environmental regulations.
“So of course we’re worried,” Manning said. “But I think what we have to do is to start thinking about the fact that it’s up to Congress to legislate so that not everything ends up in the Supreme Court.”
“We’re going to have to find a way together, depending on what the composition of the House and the Senate are, we’re going to have to find people we can work with and we’re going to have to find people who are concerned about issues that are deeply important to peoples’ everyday lives.”
“Issues like health care, like education, like climate control, environmental control,” she said. “And we’re going to have to find ways to pass legislation that will make things better for the American people.”