The North Carolina House on Thursday approved a new Congressional map, two weeks after a three-judge panel said the state’s current map couldn’t be used in the upcoming 2020 elections.
Under the current map, the Republicans control 10 of 13 seats. The new map appears to give Democrats the inside track on picking up two more seats, making it an 8-to-5 map. Joining Lisa Worf to talk about the new map is WFAE’s political reporter, Steve Harrison.
Lisa Worf: Good morning, Steve
Steve Harrison: Good morning, Lisa.
Worf: So Steve, it looks like we are going to have a new Congressional map in North Carolina. Can you give me the big picture – where would the Democrats possibly pick up seats, and what are the implications nationally?
Harrison: So, officially this map was created without the use of voting data as to who is a Republican and who is a Democrat. That’s the party line.
But Democrats were quick to say this is an 8-5 map, based on the history of how North Carolinians have voted.
So, nationally, if you are a Democrat, that’s good news, right? Democrats have 233 seats in the House, and the GOP has 197. So if this map is approved – and if it goes the way people think it will go – then that makes it that much harder for the Republicans to take back the House in 2020.
But there were Democrats yesterday who said this map was only a slight improvement over the old map. They were hoping for a 7-6 map or even a 6-6-1 map. That one would be a toss-up seat.
There was an exchange in the House yesterday when Carla Cunningham of Charlotte asked Republican David Lewis how many toss-up seats there would be. And Lewis – who has long been the Republican’s chief map-maker – said, "I don’t know, I didn’t look at partisan data."
Here’s what Democrat Darren Jackson of Wake County then said.
"There’s a doctrine in law called 'the fruit of the poisonous tree,'" Jackson said. "Rep. Lewis has agreed today that he is the primary map-drawer of this map. He knows the racial data of these maps because he’s used it before in drawing racially gerrymandered maps."
Worf: So the Democrats aren’t happy. But if the Democrats are in line to pick up two seats, then there are at least two Republicans who certainly aren’t happy, right?
Harrison: Yes. And right now the two vulnerable Republicans are Mark Walker from Greensboro and George Holding of Raleigh.
In the current map, Greensboro was split in two – with the map chopping North Carolina A&T into two districts. Now Guilford County is together, and that gives Democratic voters a lot more strength.
Walker is an interesting Congressman. He’s been pushing the NCAA to let athlete’s profit from their likeness, and he was one of the few Republicans to condemn the Send Her Back Chant from the Greenville rally this summer.
He tweeted yesterday that he “will keep fighting for for the people of North Carolina….and will continue to serve where the trail leads.”
And a lot of people think that trail, for him, will be running for Senate in 2022 to fill Richard Burr’s seat.
Worf: OK, let’s look close to home. How does this map impact Charlotte?
Harrison: Not much changes at all. The 12th District – which covers most of Mecklenburg – would be basically the same. Although Matthews and Mint Hill would leave the 9th District and go into the 12th.
The 9th District still creeps into Charlotte to capture Dan Bishop’s home address in south Charlotte, and still runs to the east. It looks a lot like the current 9th District.
Worf: Before you go any farther, what about Bladen County? Is that still in the 9th?
Harrison: It’s not! Bladen of course was the center of the mail ballot scandal in the 9th District last year, and it’s now in the 7th.
In exchange, the 9th District gets Hoke County and part of Moore County.
But the overall district is still very Republican-friendly. Trump won the 9th by a little under 12 points in 2016. One analysis by the Daily Kos shows that Trump won the new 9th by a little more than 10 points.
So that’s still a big stretch for any Democrat thinking about running.
One thing that’s worth noting is that it’s 2019 – but these new maps are using 2010 population data. So when the maps are re-drawn again after the 2020 Census, that’s when the Democrats will be in a much stronger position. Because Mecklenburg County will have so many people it will come close to having one and a half seats on its own.
Worf: So are there any other highlights from this new map?
Harrison: Well, if you have been following the impeachment inquiry, you have seen a lot of Mark Meadows – one of the president’s closest allies. His district today is gerrymandered to remove Democratic Asheville. But in the new map, Asheville goes back into Meadows’s distirict.
But it’s still a pretty safe Republican seat.
Worf: And so what’s next?
Harrison: The Senate will take up this map – or maybe create a new map all together. Then the court will decide whether it’s OK for the March primary. Remember, filing starts in early December.
Worf: Thanks, Steve
Harrison: Thanks, Lisa.