The fact Ethridge turned into a big spending Liberal is what killed his chances in Rural NC. Add the fact he’s been walking around grabbing innocent bystanders on the street.. you almost wonder why he thought he had a chance at all!
Easy answer: "Gerrymandering".
North Carolina is a Democrat state, both houses being Democrat. However, both houses flipped this year to GOP for the first time since Reconstruction. They get to draw the districts this time around.
I suspect we'll see a few more Republicans from North Carolina in 2012 when they get the current "solid Democrat" lines straightened out.