March 31, 2016 — The anti-Washington political sentiment is more than just a factor in the presidential race. The feeling is permeating the early congressional nomination campaigns, particularly among Republicans, and House incumbents are taking serious notice.
So far six states have held their congressional primaries: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio and Texas, and though no incumbent has lost many have deflected competitive intra-party challenges, while several others loom on the horizon. In the six states that have nominated their 2016 congressional candidates, including four with run-off systems, none has even been cast into a secondary election. The closest two results came in Texas and Illinois, where veteran representatives Kevin Brady (R-TX-8) and John Shimkus (R-IL-15) won respective 53 and 60 percent re-nomination victories.
The most serious current primary campaigns are occurring in North Carolina, now scheduled for June 7 after a court-mandated major redistricting plan forced the state to move its congressional primaries from March 15.
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.
March 25, 2016 — With the presidential campaign dominating the political media, it is easy to lose sight of the highly important 34 Senate races running simultaneously. At least one campaign appears to be in transition, and is rapidly shifting from relatively safe to potentially competitive.
Throughout 2015, it was commonly believed that North Carolina represented the Democrats’ most glaring candidate recruitment failure. Try as they might to attract a top name office holder or former statewide official like ex-US Sen. Kay Hagen, the party leaders could not convince a person of significant political stature to run. They settled for ex-state Rep. Deborah Ross and small town mayor Chris Rey. But the recent primary results and a new poll suggest that this race may be ascending the targeting charts.
In the March 15 statewide Democratic primary, Ross easily captured the Senate nomination and posted a much stronger-than-anticipated 62 percent against Rey (16 percent) and two other opponents. North Carolina carries a 40 percent run-off requirement; meaning, if no candidate exceeds this particular vote threshold the top two finishers move to a secondary election. Questions about Ross cracking the 40 percent mark consumed the pre-race predictions.
Feb. 24, 2016 — As expected, Donald Trump placed first in the Nevada Caucuses scoring just under 46 percent of the attender preference; his strongest performance to date, though the turnout was only in the 75,000 range. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was second with 24 percent, followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 21 percent. Dr. Ben Carson and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) trailed with five and four percent, respectively.
Though he didn’t emphasize Nevada at all, Gov. Kasich’s dead last finish behind Carson cannot be good for his pre-Ohio staying power.
Surprise move follows surprise move in the continuing North Carolina redistricting saga that has unleashed political turmoil in the Tar Heel State.
After the three-judge federal panel sitting in Raleigh struck down Congressional Districts 1 (Rep. G.K. Butterfield; D-Wilson) and 12 (Rep. Alma Adams; D-Greensboro) in early February, the legislature, fulfilling the court-ordered directive, re-configured the map and passed it into law by the imposed Feb. 19 deadline. The March 15 primary has been moved to June 7 and, surprisingly, the run-off portion of the election process has been eliminated for the congressional contests. Primary elections for all other offices continue on March 15 and will feature the state’s traditional 40 percent threshold run-off system.
Feb. 22, 2016 — Last week, the North Carolina state Senate passed a new congressional map, responding to a court-ordered directive to remedy what a three-judge federal panel determined to be an illegal draw in Districts 1 (Rep. G.K. Butterfield-D) and 12 (Rep. Alma Adams-D). The lines were struck down just 39 days before the state’s primary election.
The resulting map, constructed and passed within a 14-day period, is substantially different from the current map. It pairs one set of incumbents, likely causes two Republican House members to square-off in a primary election, eliminates an African-American district, makes several of the 10 Republican districts more competitive, and calls upon the Board of Elections to re-schedule the congressional primary election while nomination contests for all other offices proceed as scheduled on March 15.
Since the court in its ruling about the two original African-American majority districts declared there is no evidence of polarized voting in North Carolina, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act does not apply. Therefore, the Republican map drawers took the opportunity to break up the famous “I-85 district” that traveled from Charlotte up Interstate 85 to capture predominately black precincts in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and at one time, as far away as Durham. Greensboro’s Rep. Adams’ 12th District that the court invalidated is now eliminated. Adams will find herself in a new Republican-leaning 13th District, while the new 12th is fully contained within Mecklenburg County and will probably elect a white Democrat from Charlotte.