Republicans in North Carolina picked up historic authority from voters Tuesday, sweeping Democrats out of power in a government shake-up that the state hasn't seen since the 1800s.
• INTERACTIVE MAP: How Republicans Beat Dems
Dozens of wins gave Republicans control of the General Assembly for the first time in more than a century. The GOP ousted a veteran Democratic lawmaker from Congress, helping the party reclaim control of the U.S. House. And incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Burr trounced his challenger by 12 percentage points.
All that comes just two years after President Barack Obama became the first Democrat to win North Carolina in three decades of White House races.
Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, a likely candidate to lead the entire chamber in January, said the legislative results send a message to elected officials.
"This result is an indication of the desire of the voters of North Carolina for a change in direction in state government," said Berger, R-Rockingham. "We have broken a 112-year dry spell."
Not only does the shift give Republicans power to govern, it gives them an inherent advantage for years to come. The GOP will be in charge of redrawing House and Senate districts, as well as the boundaries for U.S. House seats, based on upcoming census figures.
House Minority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, said voters chose Republicans because they were tired of left-leaning policies coming out of Washington and Raleigh, when only a small percentage of voters actually consider themselves liberal.
Legislative Republicans pledged to reduce spending and tax rates if given the majority, cut red tape for small business operators, eliminate the 100-school cap on charter schools and pass a bill designed to exempt North Carolina residents from the federal health care overhaul.
"All we have to do is govern from the middle," said Stam, who plans to be a candidate for House speaker. "We're conservative, but North Carolinians are generally conservative. We're going to do things that I think people are going to be really happy about."
The flip in the state Senate likely means that Senate leader Marc Basnight's record 18-year reign will come to an end. Republicans now have a majority in that chamber that can override a veto from Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue.
Andrew Whalen, the executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party, pointed to the drastic fluctuations in recent elections as reason to believe that the party will resurge soon.
"These things are cyclical," Whalen said. "You've got to look at where we lost voters, how we can bring them back, and no Democrat in North Carolina should be hanging their head."
Republicans did fall short in a few congressional races that they had targeted for potential swings. Outside groups had spent millions to sway voters in the campaign for seats held by Democratic Reps. Heath Shuler, Larry Kissell and Mike McIntyre.
But it was career nurse Renee Ellmers who proved to be the strongest Republican candidate of the congressional cycle. She narrowly defeated Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge for the 2nd District seat, although Etheridge declined to concede the race, which he trailed by 2,000 votes.
"The people are not supposed to work for Washington. Washington is supposed to work for the people," Ellmers said in claiming her victory.
Etheridge's reputation had been tarnished by a video posted online showing him in a bizarre sidewalk confrontation in Washington. He apologized for his actions and asked voters to look at his record in Congress.
In the state's judicial races, Court of Appeals Judge Barbara Jackson won a spot on the state Supreme Court. Two incumbents retained their spots on the appellate court, while a third took the most first-place votes in an instant-runoff campaign that has yet to be settled.