US Senator Thom Tillis and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham are locked in a dead-heat. With more than $233 million spent, this race could determine which party gains control of the US Senate.
Despite the high stakes and massive spending, the race plodded along a relatively benign route until early October when explosive personal matters came to light. Cunningham, a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army Reserve, admitted to an extramarital affair with one of his campaign strategists Arlene Guzman Todd. (Alleged sexts between the two were published by a right-wing outlet.) An ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Army Reserve. That same week, Tillis tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a White House event where others also tested positive and it was deemed a likely superspreader event.
The suburban women, who live in close proximity to urban centers like Raleigh and Charlotte, could play a potentially decisive role in this race. Historically, suburban women have been reliable voters for Republicans in the state and nationally. In 2016, Trump carried suburban communities nationwide 50% to Hillary Clinton’s 46%. But in 2018, suburban women began shifting to Democratic candidates, according to political scientist David McClellan, who runs The Meredith Poll, the only North Carolina survey research organization that focuses on issues pertaining to women.
Typifying the trend, McClellan points to two races in Wake County in which Democratic women Julie Von Haefen and Sydney Batch picked up state legislative seats previously held by Republicans in districts with rapidly growing suburban communities including Cary, Apex, and Holly Springs home to increasingly diverse, young families. “A surge of women voters swung those elections to Democrats,” he says.
Taking the temperature of suburban women in Cary, North Carolina
To see what women voters are thinking about the Tillis-Cunningham race, Business Insider visited a Wake County polling site in the Cary suburbs. On Sunday, October 35, despite the grey, overcast skies, drizzling rain, and a pervasive wet cold, voters stood in line upwards of two hours at the Cary Senior Center, nestled in Bond Park, to cast their ballot on the final weekend before early voting closed on October 31.
“I’m a registered Independent, and I care about human rights so I’m basically a Democrat,” said Sydelle Snyder, 37, a white, college-educated, 6th-grade middle school math and science teacher in Cary. Funding for education is her top issue. When asked about Tillis and Cunningham she says, “I’m voting based on policies, and what I think they’ve done in their jobs and what they will do if elected.” Of Cunningham, specifically, she says, “The scandal has nothing to do with the job.”
Chantal Fermin, 25, who works at a Cary tech company, didn’t say which US Senate candidate she voted for,