North Carolina: New Districts, New Candidates

By Jim Ellis

March 30, 2016 — The court-ordered North Carolina redistricting map is final and the new candidate filing period closed at the end of the preceding week.

The statewide and local legislative primaries were previously conducted, in conjunction with the presidential primary on March 15, but the congressional nominations were moved to June 7. Originally, all North Carolina primaries were scheduled for March 15, but the late court action necessitated opening a new filing period for the significantly altered congressional map.

The original 2011 congressional map elected 10 Republicans and three Democrats to the 13 total seats. When the court remanded the map back to the legislature with instructions to change the districts in relation to minority representation, the legislature did just that: a rather radical redraw that will still likely keep the state at 10R-3D, but assures a somewhat different group of people representing many of the changed districts.

The biggest difference will be the elimination of at least one Republican House member, as representatives Renee Ellmers (R-Dunn) and George Holding (R-Raleigh) are squaring off against each other in the new 2nd District that contains all or parts of six counties. The district contains all of Wake County with the exception of the city of Raleigh.

Rep. Holding’s 13th District was moved away from the Raleigh metro area, and he was originally paired with Democratic Rep. David Price (D-Raleigh) in the new 4th District. Knowing he could not win such a strongly Democratic seat against a veteran incumbent, Holding decided he would challenge Rep. Ellmers in a district that contained a majority of his constituents (57 percent). The new 2nd District contains only 13 percent from the old 2nd CD territory that Ellmers currently represents.

In addition to Holding and Ellmers, Tea Party activist Greg Brannon (R), who has twice run for the US Senate including challenging Sen. Richard Burr two weeks ago (Brannon received 25 percent of the statewide Republican vote in holding Burr to a 61 percent victory), has entered the campaign. Former Chatham County Republican Party chairman Jim Duncan, who was originally challenging Ellmers and with support from the Club for Growth, did not re-file because the new 2nd District no longer contains his county.

The 2nd District features the top Republican primary on June 7. Rep. Holding is favored to win.

The top Democratic primary is in the Charlotte-anchored 12th District. Here, freshman Rep. Alma Adams (D-Greensboro) will defend her seat against six Democratic opponents, including three state representatives and one former state senator and congressional candidate. Rep. Adams’ home base of Greensboro was removed from this district, and instead of taking her chances in a new lean Republican open 13th CD that does contain her home, she decided to take her chances in a Democratic primary from a region she has only represented a short time.

The fact that no run-off election will occur helps Adams, since she might be able to secure re-nomination with a small plurality. With seven names on the Democratic ballot, the vote is sure to be splintered.

The second major Republican contest is in the open 13th, which is a new five-county district in the central-western part of the state that regularly votes more Republican than Democratic. Seventeen Republicans have filed for the seat including four state legislators as well as four current and former elected officials. Five Democrats filed, including one former Guilford County (Greensboro) commissioner.

Rep. Bob Pittenger’s 9th District is also very different. Previously, the seat began in Charlotte and traveled north on Interstate 77 into Iredell County and the city of Statesville. Now, the 9th still begins in Charlotte but travels east and southeast along the South Carolina border almost to Fayetteville. The change in boundaries has brought Pittenger two significant Republican challengers, former Union County commissioner Todd Johnson, and ex-US Senate and prominent Baptist pastor Mark Harris. Pittenger immediately hit the airwaves to introduce himself to the new district, but with a confirmed FBI investigation underway into his family business and so much new political territory, his chances for re-nomination are certainly lessened.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville) now has all of the state’s far eastern territory north of the city of Wilmington, including most of the Outer Banks region. The change in territory should help Jones, who again faces a primary challenge from former George W. Bush Administration official Taylor Griffin. In 2014, Griffin held Rep. Jones to a 51-45 percent victory, and it was thought that this year’s race would be similarly close. A third candidate, computer technician Phil Law, is also running. Law is unlikely to be a significant factor, but the votes he does draw will likely help Jones win with a plurality.

All of the other incumbents: representatives G.K. Butterfield (D-Wilson), David Price (D-Raleigh), Virginia Foxx (R-Avery/Forsyth Counties), Mark Walker (R-Summerfield/Greensboro), David Rouzer (R-Johnston County), Richard Hudson (R-Concord), Patrick McHenry (R-Lincoln County; Asheville), and Mark Meadows (R-Jackson County) all appear to have safe seats and are sure bets for re-nomination and re-election in the fall.

Much change is occurring in the Tar Heel State with the surprise judicial ruling that forced the state to be redrawn in the current election cycle. Though we expect to see changes in representation under this new map, the party division will likely remain constant.

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