Dec. 10, 2019 — The 36th US House seat to come open lies in Raleigh, North Carolina, as four-term Rep. George Holding (R-Raleigh) announced late Friday that he will not seek re-election next year. He is in the rare situation of being forced from his position because of an unfavorable redistricting draw during the fifth election of the political decade.
We can expect to see a number of such redistricting-related instances occur throughout the country in the next election cycle, but to be still fighting redistricting legal battles, as they are in North Carolina, with a new census and apportionment directly upon us is unprecedented.
Rep. Holding says he is now not seeking re-election because of what he describes as the “terrible” manner in which the boundaries of his 2nd District have been reconstructed. The 2nd moves from a 53-44 percent Trump district to one that voted 60-36 percent for Hillary Clinton.
Though the Republican legislators reconfigured the map, the partisan division will increase the Democratic number by at least two seats, which directly affects the Raleigh and Greensboro and Winston-Salem areas. The court directive forced a criterion change upon the legislature, which responded with the new map.
The post-2020 election delegation will likely feature an 8R-5D split, and Democrats sued arguing they should have more in a state whose electorate typically splits close to 50/50. The three-judge panel that originally struck down the previous GOP map unanimously approved this latest mapping effort, so the new plan will stand for the 2020 elections.
This new congressional map significantly changes the North Carolina political picture. The Holding seat is now a Democratic primary fight, and the early leader is former state Rep. Deborah Ross, who challenged Sen. Richard Burr (R) in 2016 and held him to a hard fought 51-45 percent victory.
The other Republican incumbent left without a political home is three-term Rep. Mark Walker (R-Greensboro), and it is clear he will not seek re-election in the new 6th District. He is reportedly weighing his options for other political opportunities. Rep. Walker averaged 58.1 percent of the vote in his three congressional victories while the newly constructed NC-6 constituency supported Hillary in a 59-38 percent result.
Reports emerging from North Carolina political sources suggest that Walker is contemplating hopping into the Senate race against fellow Republican Thom Tillis, or challenging Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) in the newly constructed, and much more Republican, 13th District. Another option would be to sit out this term and see what the subsequent congressional map brings. North Carolina is certain to gain a new 14th District for the 2022 election and even adding a second new district may not be completely out of the question considering the state’s growth patterns.
Additionally, Sen. Burr said during the 2016 campaign, and has reiterated since, that he will not seek a fourth term in 2022. Therefore, Rep. Walker would also have the opportunity of running for that statewide position if he so chooses. Rep. Holding’s name has also been mentioned as a potential candidate in a 2022 Senate context.
One option that Walker is apparently not presently considering is running for a statewide office next year; yet opportunities exist. Though the Republicans seems to be lining up behind Lt. Gov. Dan Forest to challenge sitting Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, Forest’s position is open. Former congresswoman Renee Ellmers, who Rep. Holding defeated for re-nomination in 2016 when the congressional lines were last replaced under a different court-imposed order, is in the open lieutenant governor’s candidate field along with seven other declared Republican contenders.
The superintendent of public instruction as well as the labor commissioner slots are also open because the current incumbents are not seeking re-election. Plus, Democrats hold three of the other statewide offices and are subject to a Republican challenge.
Therefore, several opportunities are ostensibly available to Rep. Walker at the statewide level — though each of these campaigns already has at least one Republican candidate currently running, meaning the congressman would face a quick March 3 statewide primary no matter which office he might choose. Running for a state office, to reiterate, has not yet been associated with Rep. Walker’s reported political options, however.
Nationally, the new Tar Heel State map configuration will bump the Democratic US House advantage by at least two seats. Therefore, in order for Republicans to re-capture the House majority, they are now forced to convert 20 Democratic districts.
The North Carolina political musical chairs situation will soon come to an end. The state’s candidate filing deadline is Dec. 20 for their March 3 statewide primary, so Walker has little time to make a career decision.