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Did state Democrats barge into local politics?

Then-Sen. Leslie Winner talks with then-Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker during an N.C. Senate session in 1996.
Then-Sen. Leslie Winner talks with then-Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker during an N.C. Senate session in 1996. 1996 FILE PHOTO

The Observer reprinted an editorial from the (Raleigh) News & Observer on Tuesday decrying Republican legislators’ barging into local politics by overhauling the Greensboro City Council.

Republicans, the editorial argued, can’t defend the move by saying Democrats did the same thing when they were in power. “The Democrats most certainly were inclined to have their way no matter what, but they didn’t jump into local redistricting,” the editorial said.

Not so fast, Republican Mecklenburg commissioner Bill James says.

He points to 1993, when, led by Sen. Leslie Winner, the Democratic-controlled legislature approved a plan to change new Mecklenburg County commissioner districts. The new map threw out lines approved by voters in 1992 and replaced them with ones that benefited Democrats. “Indignation is fine as long as it is accurate,” James says.

James leaves out a key step, though. Here’s what happened:

In November 1992, Mecklenburg voters approved a plan to expand the Mecklenburg board of commissioners from seven members to nine. That plan also established new district lines. The next summer, the legislature approved Winner’s bill that proposed new districts and, critics say, helped Democrat Lloyd Scher hold on to his east Charlotte seat.

But there’s a crucial difference between that legislative involvement and this legislature’s trampling on Greensboro: Mecklenburg voters were given a chance to vote on the change, and they approved it in November 1993. The Greensboro change, in contrast, was forced upon the city by legislators.

Mecklenburg’s were redrawn with voters’ blessing. Greensboro’s were changed over voters’ opposition, and with no chance for them to have a say. Taylor Batten

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