North Carolina’s new congressional map not only is making lawmakers scramble to meet new voters, but could make some districts more competitive.
Republicans in the GOP-controlled General Assembly have said the map they approved last week should ensure that their party continues to hold a 10-3 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation.
But some districts, including the 8th and 9th near Charlotte could flip parties, at least on paper. They’re represented by Republicans Richard Hudson and Robert Pittenger. So could the 3rd in Eastern North Carolina, represented by Republican Walter Jones Jr.
The new map, passed along a party-line vote, also appears to ensure the election of at least two African-Americans.
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Lawmakers redrew the congressional map after a panel of federal judges ruled the 12th and 1st districts unconstitutional. The judges said lawmakers had improperly used race to create the two black-majority districts, now represented by Democratic Reps. Alma Adams and G.K. Butterfield.
In the new map:
▪ The 12th and 1st districts each lost thousands of African-American voters. The 12th lost 14 percent, nearly 100,000. The 1st lost around 60,000. Its black population was down 8 percent.
The state’s only other Democratic district, the Triangle-based 4th, represented by Rep. David Price, lost 70,000 black voters, or 9 percent.
But each of those districts still has enough Democrats to virtually ensure the election of a Democrat. And with black populations of 45 percent in the 1st District and 37 percent in the 12th, voters could elect African-American candidates. Black voters, traditionally Democratic, could make the difference in a Democratic primary.
▪ The changes increased the number of Democratic voters, and African-Americans, in virtually every other district, though not necessarily by much. The exception is the 9th District.
There, Pittenger finds himself in a district where 45 percent of voters are Democrats, not the 32 percent he has now. Many are in the six counties he picked up along the S.C. line. And fewer than a third of the voters in his new district are Republicans.
But when he ran for lieutenant governor in 2008, Pittenger won the new district with 51 percent of the vote.
“I welcome the demographics,” he said Friday. “Frankly my message appeals to African-Americans. If there’s any group that should be disappointed by the president’s failed economic policies, it should be low-income minority people.”
▪ Other districts, particularly the 13th – which essentially moved from the Triangle to the Piedmont – saw major changes in geography though little change in partisan or racial demographics. The changes will pit incumbent Republicans George Holding, who represents the 13th District, against Rep. Renee Ellmers in the 2nd.
Political scientist Michael Bitzer of Catawba College said by reducing the black populations of districts such as the 1st and 12th, African-Americans could find themselves with more influence in other districts.
And Thomas Mills, a Democratic consultant from Carrboro, said Democrats could be more competitive in districts such as the 9th and the 3rd. Though represented for years by GOP Rep. Walter Jones Jr., the 3rd has thousands more Democrats than Republicans.
“Democrats need to learn how to compete in some of these districts,” Mills said. “They’re not pretty and they’re tough. But politics isn’t always easy. And we would do a lot to learn how to talk to white working class voters, and we don’t have to be Republican-lite to do it.”
Pittenger, meanwhile, wasn’t wasting any time meeting his new voters.
He was scheduled to have breakfast Saturday with Republicans in Anson County.