Polls are open today as voters select party nominees for congressional, state legislative and local offices.
While Democrats must wait until November's general election to see if the so-called blue wave will materialize and shift the balance of power in Washington and Raleigh, political observers are watching to see how incumbents, particularly Republicans, fare in North Carolina's primaries today.
U.S. Representative Robert Pittenger faces a challenge from fellow Republican Mark Harris in North Carolina's 9th congressional district. Three Democrats--Linda Coleman, Ken Romley, and Wendy Ella May--are running to challenge likely Republican candidate George Holding in the 2nd district. Holding's Republican challenger, Allen Chesser II, is running a cash-strapped campaign.
Democrat Kathy Manning is expected to emerge victorious in the her 13th district primary ready to take on freshman incumbent Congressman Ted Budd, one of the state's 10 GOP congressional seats considered "flippable."
Political analyst Jonathan Kappler, Executive Director of the non-partisan North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation, said President Trump's success as an outsider has generated interest among political newcomers this year.
"I think the fact that that we have an atypical president in the White House who has come into office from a non-traditional background and unsettled the kind of political establishment," Kappler said, "creates an environment in which candidates across the country and up and down the ballot in North Carolina may feel a little bit more emboldened to participate as a candidate themselves."
Kappler said issues like water pollution and a sales tax expansion passed by the GOP-led legislature in 2015 will factor into motivating voters in certain North Carolina districts to turn out today.
"This issue's coming up in a couple of places that I think that are important," Kappler said, referring to the sales tax expansion.
"Representative Jon Hardister in Guilford County, he faces two Republican primary challengers including a former state senator who is kind of making his campaign really around this one issue of sales tax expansion," Kappler said.
Kappler said incumbent Republican state Representative Justin Burr has also had to face criticism for supporting the sales tax expansion on various goods and services in his House District 67 primary in Stanly and Cabarrus counties.
Kappler said he will paying close attention to the margins of victory, especially in races involving GOP incumbents like Burr and Representative Ted Davis, of New Hanover County--where voters are concerned about water pollution from emerging industrial chemicals like GenX.
Kappler said if incumbents manage to beat their opponents but only by slim margins, it could portend a lot for November's general election.
"That may be a warning sign for Republicans in the general election that these suburban communities are restless and potentially open to voting for a non-incumbent candidate," said Kappler.
All 170 state legislative seats are being contested this year.
Among Democrats, incumbent state Rep. Duane Hall faces a primary challenge after being accused of sexual misconduct, allegations he disputes.
Registered voters in North Carolina are almost evenly split between Democrats, Republicans and Unaffiliated.
In North Carolina, unaffiliated voters may vote in the party primary of their choice.