Suburban women could play a decisive role in deciding North Carolina’s US Senate race, where the Democratic challenger has faced a sexting scandal

a group of people wearing costumes: Susan Presson, a volunteer with the Buncombe County Democratic Party, speaks with voters waiting in line to vote at a polling place at the Dr. Wesley Grant Senior Center on October 15, 2020 in Asheville, North Carolina. Brian Blanco/Getty Images

© Brian Blanco/Getty Images
Susan Presson, a volunteer with the Buncombe County Democratic Party, speaks with voters waiting in line to vote at a polling place at the Dr. Wesley Grant Senior Center on October 15, 2020 in Asheville, North Carolina. Brian Blanco/Getty Images

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,

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Wedding planner fights for racial equity in North Carolina’s “divided” industry

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) — The wedding industry is a billion-dollar economic driver in North Carolina. But with large-scale events at a standstill because of COVID-19 restrictions, the industry is struggling.

One wedding planner is using this break in business to spark change at the roughly 1,500 venues in the state.

Elana Walker isn’t doing as many grandiose gatherings these days. She estimates her income is being slashed in half because of the pandemic.

She is staying busy working to bridge the racial gap in the wedding industry.

“The wedding industry in the Triangle, for a very long time, has been very divided between the white vendors and the black vendors,” Walker said.

Walker has been calling around and doing outreach to venues. She’s pushing for more equity on vendors’ lists.

When a couple picks a place, they’ll often get a roster of preferred vendors.

Walker said those lists often have little-to-no diverse representation. That is, until now.

“I will say the response has been tremendous,” Walker said.

She’s also one of the founding members of the recently formed National Society of Black Weddings and Event Professionals.

Walker’s been hosting a series of online forums bouncing ideas around on how to improve the playing field. More than 700 people have been tuning in to the virtual meetings.

People have been using those meetings to highlight the injustices they’ve experienced while bringing a couple’s big day to life.

“A photographer talked about on a wedding day, he’s often mistaken as the assistant to his assistant, who happened to be white. Or what it feels like for a black vendor to do a wedding on a plantation,” Walker said.

Walker expects weddings to look and feel different when festivities do resume.

She’s hoping they’ll be more inclusive and welcoming to match our diverse community.

“I really, really, really have high hopes that it will turn things around that in the Triangle,” Walker said.

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