Category Archives: NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina in Political Abeyance

(Please click on map for expanded view.)


By Jim Ellis

Dec. 14, 2021 — Last week proved to be a topsy-turvy week in North Carolina politics, and situations are being created that won’t likely be resolved for some time.

First, a three-judge panel suspended the state’s Dec. 17 candidate filing deadline to allow consideration time for the filed partisan gerrymandering lawsuits. A day later, the en banc 15-member State Appellate Court overturned the judicial panel’s ruling and reinstated the Dec. 17 filing deadline. Just hours later, the state Supreme Court overruled the full Appellate Court and not only reinstated the original ruling suspending the candidate filing deadline, but postponed the North Carolina primary more than two months, moving it from March 8 to May 17.

The final ruling affects all candidates at every level because the primary now returns to the traditional May slot that North Carolina typically holds. The respective Democratic and Republican Party leaders moved the primary in 2020 to better position the state for the presidential nomination process. In the 2021 legislative session, the General Assembly took no action to move the primary back to May.

The judicial rulings also affect the statewide US Senate race. For example, ex-Congressman Mark Walker (R) is a Senate candidate who did not seek re-election to the House in 2020 because the late-decade court-ordered redistricting ruling tore his previous 6th District into several parts making the region unattainable for any Republican.

Many people on the right, including former President Donald Trump, are reportedly urging Walker to leave the Senate race and run in the state’s open 7th Congressional District. The newly created CD-7 in the Greensboro area, which Walker largely represented, would certainly be winnable for him. In actuality, he would only have to win a Republican primary. If this map stands, the new 7th will be safe for the GOP in any general election.

Currently, the former congressman trails badly in early US Senate polling, but he is planning to stay in the Senate race until at least the end of the year, or when the congressional map status becomes clear.

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Post Redistricting:
Competitive Seats, Part II

Nevada redistricting map

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 10, 2021 — Continuing our redistricting report about the 20 multi-congressional district states that have completed the re-drawing process, today, we look at the domains from Montana through West Virginia.


Montana:

The Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission for the first time had a congressional map to draw. The state rose from at-large status to gaining a new district in reapportionment due to strong population growth. Montana is the first multi-district state to ever fall into at-large status, as it did in the 1990 census, and then regain a second district.

Though more Democratic maps were filed for commission consideration, the main Republican offered map was adopted. One of the Democratic commissioners voted for the plan, which allowed the GOP version to prevail. Still, all of the maps created an east and west seat, with the new western seat, labeled District 1, being the more competitive.

At-large Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Glendive) will run in the safely Republican eastern District 2, while former congressman and ex-US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appears to be the early leader in the western district both in the Republican primary and general election. While relatively competitive, the 1st District will clearly nominate a Republican who will be the general election favorite.


Nebraska:

The unicameral legislature and Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) enacted a new congressional map that should again deliver a 3R-0D delegation. Rep. Don Bacon’s (R-Papillion/Omaha) marginal 2nd District – Joe Biden carried the district by more than 22,000 votes – is strengthened for the incumbent, but it still remains a competitive congressional domain.


Nevada:

The Democratic legislature and Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) enacted a map that is designed to produce a 3D-1R map but, in attempting to maximize the Democratic stake, possibly all three of the party’s intended seats now fall into the potentially competitive realm.

In 2020, Clark County hosted two of the 53 districts nationally where the winning candidate scored less than 52 percent. In 3rd District Rep. Susie Lee’s (D-Las Vegas) case, her victory percentage was less than 49 percent. Fourth District incumbent Steven Horsford (D-Las Vegas) fared only slightly better at 50.7 percent. In order to strengthen these two districts, a large number of Democrats had to be taken from the previously safe seat of 1st District Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas).

The end result is three Democratic seats in the lower 50s. In a Republican year, and considering the GOP is beginning to score better with Hispanics who comprise more than 31 percent of the Clark County population, all three seats could conceivably host competitive challenge campaigns. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City), the lone Republican incumbent in the Nevada delegation, gets a safe northern state seat.


North Carolina:

The courts have been playing ping pong with the North Carolina map this week. A three-judge panel first issued a stay order on the Tar Heel State’s Dec. 17 candidate filing deadline pertaining to a redistricting lawsuit before the court. A day later, the full 15-member state Appellate Court overturned the panel’s ruling, and restored the original filing deadline. Just this week, the state Supreme Court quickly reinstated the candidate filing stay and ordered the March 8 primary postponed until May 17.

The North Carolina map is the national Republicans’ best to date. If it survives the legal challenge, the GOP could net as many as three seats in the delegation. It appears that five seats will be open, with Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-Wilson) and David Price (D-Chapel Hill) retiring, Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) running for Senate, and with two more seats beign created through reapportionment and the map-drawing process.

Under the enacted map, Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) and Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk) are paired in a new 11th District, which would heavily favor the GOP nominee.


Ohio:

The legislature and Gov. Mike DeWine (R) recently approved a new congressional map that may net the Republicans a one-seat gain, or could conceivably yield the Democrats a similar outcome. Three of the state’s 15 new districts are highly competitive — Ohio lost one seat in reapportionment — with two currently in Democratic hands and one under GOP control.

Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati), Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo), and the open 13th District seat of Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren), now located on the west side of Cleveland, are all tightly constructed partisan districts. In the remaining seats, Republicans hold a significant 10-2 advantage. Retiring Rep. Anthony Gonzalez’s (R-Rocky River) 16th District has effectively been collapsed.


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NORTH CAROLINA REDISTRICTING UPDATE

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Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s (D-Wilson) retirement announcement throws the state’s new 2nd District into the slightly competitive range. President Biden would have carried this seat only with a 51-48% margin, thus meaning it could become competitive in a strong Republican year with a viable GOP candidate. Such could be the situation in 2022.

With the 2nd District potentially in play, even the state’s projected 10R-4D delegation split could possibly tilt even more toward the Republicans. That could be balanced, however, because the new 14th District in western North Carolina is more attainable for the Democrats. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-Hendersonville) deciding to run in District 13 means the more politically marginal 14th will move into the open seat category for 2022.

North Carolina Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s Retirement Leaves a Competitive 2nd

North Carolina Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-Wilson)

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 22, 2021 — As was suggested earlier in the week, 10-term North Carolina Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-Wilson) announced late last week that he will not seek re-election next year. He leaves a new 2nd District – his seat had been numbered NC-1 throughout his career – that will be more competitive in 2022.

Rep. Butterfield attacked the Republican-passed redistricting plan as a gerrymander on his way out and says the draw hurts African Americans in his district. He says that largely because an African American section of Pitt County was removed from the district, along with a small conservative county, and replaced with three larger and decidedly more Republican localities along the Virginia border.

North Carolina gained a seat in reapportionment, but the Butterfield seat was the only current Tar Heel State CD that needed to gain residents. The current 1st District was 58,205 individuals short of the state’s new population quota of 745,671 individuals per CD, so the map drawers had no choice but to add people. Virtually all of the surrounding counties are Republican.

The new 2nd District is certainly more competitive. While President Biden carried the current 1st District with a 54-45 percent margin, on par with Hillary Clinton’s 55-44 percent spread in 2016, the new 2nd District would have given Biden only a 51-48 percent vote split.

Though the new 2nd will be more competitive, the current 1st District was beginning to show signs of political change. This somewhat dispels Rep. Butterfield’s gerrymandering argument. While the previous eight elections delivered an average vote of 72.6 percent for Butterfield, his 2020 victory margin dropped to 54-46 percent opposite accountant and political activist Sandy Smith (R).

Though the state Supreme Court changed the North Carolina map for the 2020 election and basically awarded the Democrats two of the Republicans’ seats, the 1st was left largely unchanged. This suggests that the electorate could be transforming naturally, thus alternative reasons exist for the district becoming more conservative than simply altering the district lines.

We can expect to see competitive primaries in both parties, and things will quickly unfold now that the seat is open. Prior to the retirement announcement, Henderson City Councilman Jason Spriggs had announced a Democratic primary challenge to Rep. Butterfield but he was not rated as a serious challenge to the congressman.

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North Carolina’s Rep. Cawthorn Switching Districts in 2022

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 15, 2021 — With the newly enacted North Carolina congressional map being vetted and analyzed, candidates for the various districts are beginning to come forth. One surprising move is the decision from freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-Hendersonville) to run in new District 13 instead of where his home and the majority of his current constituents reside, in new District 14.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn

Cawthorn, at at the age of 26, is the youngest member of Congress; he was elected to represent the 11th District in 2020, succeeding Mark Meadows, the former Trump chief of staff who left the US House to enter the White House. The 11th has traditionally been the number for the district that sits in the Tar Heel State’s far western corner, anchored in Asheville and nestled among the Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina borders, but the newly enacted congressional map changes its number to 14.

Though the seat in its present configuration has become strongly Republican, that was not always the case. Throughout the 1980’s the district became one of the most politically marginal CDs in the country. During that entire decade, the 11th switched repeatedly back and forth between Democrat James Clarke and Republican Billy Hendon.

Once businessman and former state legislator Charles Taylor defeated Rep. Clarke in 1990, he was able to hold the district for eight consecutive terms until losing in 2006 to Democrat Heath Shuler, the former star University of Tennessee quarterback and NFL player. Shuler represented the district for three terms before retiring, leading to Meadows winning the first of his four elections. Rep. Cawthorn then recorded a 55-42 percent win in 2020 to keep the seat in the Republican column.

The new iteration of the westernmost North Carolina district returns to a more politically marginal status with a statistical history producing Republican victories in the low 50s rather than the high 50s. The adjacent new open 13th District, which annexes the western part of the Charlotte metropolitan area and moves to the Buncombe County line, becomes the region’s new safe Republican seat.

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