Republicans Used To Win Charlotte's 'Wedge' By Massive Margins - Until Last Year

Sep 6, 2019

When Republicans in the General Assembly redrew the 9th Congressional District two years ago, they counted on south Mecklenburg precincts delivering for the GOP.

Those precincts – with high numbers of wealthy, white voters – are known as south Charlotte’s “wedge.” They have voted for Republicans for decades, usually by large margins.

If you go back to the 2004 presidential election, the Mecklenburg precincts that are now in the 9th District gave President George W. Bush nearly 70% of the vote. 

Last year, Republican Mark Harris lost almost all those same precincts to Democrat Dan McCready, getting only 44%. 

For longtime political observers, it was stunning.

"The Mecklenburg wedge, as we call it in NC-09, and Union County, were intended to be the linchpin to allow NC-09 to remain solidly Republican for a decade or more," said Democratic political consultant Bill Busa in Raleigh.  "And that enabled the gerrymanders to fold a large number of majority-minority counties as well, to dilute their vote."

He said the 9th Congressional District was close last year – and expected to be close Tuesday – only because formerly solidly Republican voters in Charlotte flipped.

"Unfortunately for the gerrymanders, all suburbs have become more blue-ish over the last five or six years," Busa said.

What’s driven the change?

South Charlotte hasn’t seen a lot of new apartment construction, which would attract millennials or low-income voters. And it’s still overwhelmingly white.

Instead, a lot of the change seems to be driven by newcomers from out-of-state, or longtime Republicans and independents turned off by the Trump administration.

Susan Collis was campaigning with her sister for 9th District Republican candidate Dan Bishop this week at Morrison library. 

She says the area’s blue shift is due to northerners. Her evidence? License plates.

"And there’s a whole lot of them coming in from New York, New Jersey, all these other states that are super liberal," she said. "And I can’t figure out why. Most of them that I have talked to moved down here – it’s because of their grandkids. But they are bringing their politics with them."

Credit Steve Harrison/WFAE

What she sees is, in fact, seen in data from the Census. Only 41% of Charlotteans were born in North Carolina.

Andrew Blumenthal, who has worked on local Democratic campaigns, grew up in Foxcroft – a neighborhood of million-dollar homes near SouthPark Mall. It once consistently give Republicans margins of greater than 70 percent.

Hillary Clinton came within four percentage points of winning the Foxcroft precinct in 2016. Two years later, McCready won it by seven.

"You get a lot of these younger people with high-earning jobs, coming into Foxcroft," he said. "People buy a house for a million and a half dollars just to tear it down and build something new, like it blows my mind. These high earners, while they tend to be a little more fiscally conservative, are really more socially liberal."

In last year’s election, McCready won all but three precincts in the city of Charlotte. He lost in Matthews and Mint Hill, but did better than Democrats have historically fared.

Tareq Amin, who has lived in Charlotte for 25 years, believes it’s a combination of newcomers – and a people wary of the president.

"I do believe that part of it is Trump, and people getting sick of what’s happening and where things are headed," he said. "And I think the demographic in Charlotte is changing, You have maybe a more younger generation that’s looking not just for protecting the pocket per se, but also general policies and everything else."

So far in early voting, the Democrats’ share of voters is up nearly 2 and a half percentage points, according to data analyzed by Busa’s firm, EQV Analytics. Republicans share of early voters is down two percentage points.

Though Mecklenburg has shifted blue, Union County is still solidly Republican. 

Vice President Mike Pence is campaigning there for Bishop Monday. President Trump will follow that rally with one of his own for Bishop Monday night in Fayetteville.

This article was originally published in WFAE's newsletter Inside Politics with Steve Harrison. To get more insightful political coverage like this first each week sign up to recieve Inside Politics