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.