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The articles from Inside Politics With Steve Harrison appear first in his weekly newsletter, which takes a deeper look at local politics, including the latest news on the Charlotte City Council, what's happening with Mecklenburg County's Board of Commissioners, the North Carolina General Assembly and much more.

Early GOP congressional map gives NC Democrats hope against U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn

North Carolina Republican Sen. Warren Daniel’s proposed map.
North Carolina General Assembly
North Carolina Republican Sen. Warren Daniel’s proposed map.

North Carolina lawmakers are in the midst of state and federal redistricting based on results from the 2020 census. Population growth in the state made it eligible for a 14th U.S. House seat.

North Carolina Republican Sen. Warren Daniel, who co-chairs the state Senate redistricting committee, drew one of the first proposed congressional maps this week.

More maps will be drawn. More will be considered and tweaked over the next two weeks.

But Daniel’s first draft offers a few hints at the future.

Daniel’s map would likely give Republicans the advantage in 10 of 14 seats.

Before the first map was drawn, political insiders believed the new 14th seat would be designed for GOP House Speaker Tim Moore, who is from Cleveland County. And that 14th seat is indeed west of Charlotte, centered around Gaston-Cleveland-Rutherford counties.

The Daniel map gives Republicans an overwhelming advantage by packing Democratic voters into the 12th District, which mostly includes the city of Charlotte. It then splits, or cracks, the rest of the county into two districts — the 9th and the newly created 14th. If Mecklenburg were only in two districts, Democrats would have a chance at winning both of those seats. Wake County, home to Raleigh, is also split into three districts.

Perhaps most interesting is that it gives Democrats hope at knocking off U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn in the mountains.

Cawthorn, the youngest member of Congress, currently represents the 11th District. Despite being home to liberal Asheville, it’s very conservative overall.

In the 2020 election, Cawthorn defeated Democrat Moe Davis by 54,742 votes, or 54.5% to 42.3%.

Daniel’s map removes Polk, McDowell and Rutherford counties and adds Watauga, home to Boone and Appalachian State. (Only half of Rutherford was in the 11th).

In 2020, Cawthorn won McDowell, Polk and Rutherford by 19,185 votes. Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in Watauga by 2,671 votes. That suggests the Daniel map would have shrunk Cawthorn’s advantage from 12 percentage points to about seven points.

But even with a better map, the Democrats’ best hope for knocking off Cawthorn may come in March, during the Republican primary.

Four Republicans have said they would challenge Cawthorn.

This week, one of those candidates, Eric Batchelor, a Haywood County sheriff’s deputy, said he would drop out. He encouraged others to do the same so the anti-Cawthorn Republicans could rally behind one candidate. Retired U.S. Army Col. Rod Honeycutt appears to be gaining support as the Republican with the best chance to defeat Cawthorn.

“With myself and three others challenging Cawthorn in the primary, the vote is split so that he will still probably emerge as the victor,” Batchelor said. “I have met with two of the three remaining candidates and they understand the consequences of our high numbers, as well. I believe one or more of them will do the right thing and suspend their run as well, creating much more favorable odds to beat Cawthorn in the primary.”

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.