With new political maps drawn by the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature last year, GOP incumbents are in better position to hold on to their seats. The Republican Party is even poised to pick up a few new ones.
Republicans now hold seven of the state’s 13 congressional seats. But with the new political boundaries, the GOP could win 10 of the districts.
“The Republicans were able to redraw so many of these districts, that it’s going to make it hard for the Democrats to hold on to seats,” said J. Michael Bitzer, a historian and political science professor at Catawba College.
He pointed to North Carolina’s 7th, 8th and 11th districts. Democrat Barack Obama carried the districts in 2008. But under the new boundaries, GOP presidential nominee John McCain would have won convincingly in those districts, he said.
The following is a snapshot of some of the state’s other congressional races:
• In North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield is set to square off with Republican challenger Pete DiLauro.
Butterfield, 65, is seeking his fifth two-year term representing the redrawn district.
The district was drawn to favor minority candidates under provisions of the Voting Rights Act. It now includes areas of Durham and spreads east to include pockets of black voters in such towns as Rocky Mount, Goldsboro and Greenville. DiLauro, the Republican challenger, is a former U.S. Marine and New York City police officer who moved to North Carolina in 1996. Libertarian candidate Darryl Holloman will also be on the November ballot.
• In North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District, Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers is facing voters for the first time since she was narrowly swept into office during the GOP wave of 2010.
Ellmers, who lives in Dunn, won her seat by defeating longtime Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge by just 1,483 votes, or less than 1 percent of the ballots cast.
Her Democratic opponent is Steve Wilkins of Southern Pines. A Durham native, Wilkins retired as a lieutenant colonel after nearly 22 years in the U.S. Army. A combat veteran, he served in the invasion of Grenada, Operation Desert Storm and the Iraq War.
Also on the ballot is Brian Irving, a Libertarian from Cary.
• In North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District, veteran Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones faces Democratic challenger Erik Anderson.
Jones, 69, is seeking a 10th two-year term representing the state’s sprawling 3rd District, which includes most of the state’s coastline.
The 3rd District includes the massive U.S. Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune. Jones, who served in the N.C. National Guard during the Vietnam War era, is a member of the Armed Services Committee and touts his strong support for the military.
This year, Jones is challenged by former Marine Erik Anderson, a Democrat from Winterville.
• For Democratic U.S. Rep. David Price, his first hurdle to re-election came after his district was redrawn.
Price was faced with the prospect of running head-to-head in the 4th Congressional District against longtime Democratic Congressman Brad Miller. But Miller stepped aside to let Price run for another two-year term. A former Duke University public policy professor, Price, 72, is now facing Republican Tim D’Annunzio.
D’Annunzio, 54, of Raeford, is a conservative Republican businessman who has spoken out against federal spending. A tea party favorite, he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2010 in the 8th District.
• A fiscal conservative, Republican U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx is seeking her fifth two-year term in the 5th District.
Her Democratic opponent is political newcomer Elisabeth Motsinger, 55, of Walkertown. She’s a physician assistant and serves on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board.
• U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, R-Greensboro, who is seeking his 15th term, is being challenged by former Democratic state Sen. Tony Foriest in the 6th District.
Coble, 81, is a fiscal conservative who wants to repeal President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Foriest, 63, of Graham worked for the Xerox Corp. for 24 years. He served in the state Senate from 2006-2010.
His main focus: creating jobs and improving the economy. He said middle-class families are still struggling.
• Republican U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry’s reward for winning more than 71 percent of the vote in North Carolina’s 10th Congressional District was to get most of more liberal-leaning Asheville put into his district.
McHenry, 36, is running for a fifth term in the U.S. House in the district that stretches from Hickory and Gastonia west along the counties that border South Carolina to Polk County before extending into Asheville. His Democratic opponent is 64-year-old Patsy Keever, a North Carolina House member and retired teacher.
McHenry shrugs off any worries about running in a district that voted 63 percent for Republican 2008 presidential candidate John McCain in its old configuration, but 57 percent with its new boundaries drawn in 2011.
“I just like to meet new people,” McHenry said.
But Keever said McHenry has extreme positions fed by a lack of experience with problems that regular people face.
• Democrat Charles Malone is feeling much better and running hard to try and win a seat in the U.S. House from the 13th District.
Malone tried to drop out after filing to run because of a health scare. But after getting nearly 67 percent of the votes in the primary and a clean bill of health, Malone, 66, decided to campaign hard against Republican George Holding, a 44-year-old former U.S. attorney, known for his work in getting an indictment against former U.S. Sen. John Edwards.
But Malone is a decided underdog in the 13th, which was redrawn by Republicans to become much easier to win. The district has been represented by Democrat Brad Miller for five terms. But Miller was drawn into the 4th District and decided not to run, leaving the seat open.
The Observer has previously run stories on the 8th, 9th, 11th and 12th district races. For more information, visit the Observer’s election guide on Charlotteobserver.com