North Carolina Redistricting: Redistricting Re-Do
March 18, 2022 · 2:29 PM EDT
After North Carolina’s first and second proposals for a new congressional map were struck down, the court-ordered third map finally made it official. The state’s redrawn districts will now create opportunities for Democrats to pick up seats in 2022, even if Republicans have the national environment in their favor.
North Carolina gained a new seat as a result of reapportionment after the census, increasing the size of the state’s congressional delegation from 13 to 14 members.
The initial map, passed by the GOP-controlled legislature, was rejected by the majority-Democratic state Supreme Court, on the basis that it unfairly disadvantaged Democrats. Following revisions and appeals, the final lines were approved after being drawn by the court’s special masters. Further Republican legal efforts against the map have stalled.
North Carolina currently has eight Republican representatives and five Democratic representatives. The new map creates six districts that are heavily Republican, one district that is favored for Republicans, three districts that are heavily Democratic, two districts that are favored for Democrats, and two competitive districts (the 1st and 13th).
Under the outgoing lines, former President Donald Trump would have carried eight districts in 2020, while now-President Joe Biden would have won five. Under the new lines, Trump and Biden would have each carried seven districts (Trump won statewide, 50-49 percent).
Importantly, because these districts will only be in effect for the 2022 election, a new map will have to be drawn ahead of 2024. But despite Democrats’ current majority on the state Supreme Court, this November’s judicial elections could shift the partisan balance back in control of Republicans, giving them true final say in the mapmaking process.
The 1st spans much of northeast North Carolina, now trading its reach into Greensboro for more of Greenville. This district’s previous configuration had already produced Democrats’ most vulnerable seat in the state, and the new version looks to be a similar story. The district preferred Democrats by an average of 11.1 points, according to a composite of all statewide and federal races in North Carolina between 2016 and 2020 calculated by Inside Elections. Particularly, the 1st would have preferred Biden by 7 points in 2020, compared to Biden+9 under the outgoing lines.
Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield announced his retirement in November (after the initial map had redrawn his district to be only Biden+2). Democrats running to replace Butterfield include 2020 Senate candidate/former state Sen. Erica Smith and state Sen. Don Davis. The Republican field includes Rocky Mount Mayor Sandy Roberson and Sandy Smith, who lost to Butterfield in 2020 by 8 points. Democrats have some breathing room, but they’re still likely to face a challenging national environment. Initial rating: Lean Democratic.
While the new 2nd District differs from its previous incarnation — namely, it flips from covering the southern half of Wake County to the northern half — not much else has changed. The Raleigh-based seat, represented by first-term Democratic Rep. Deborah Ross, is still heavily Democratic, preferring Biden by 29 points in 2020 while averaging to D+22.1 in the 2016-2020 composite. Solid Democratic.
The 3rd is North Carolina’s easternmost district. This coastal seat should stay in the hands of Republican Rep. Greg Murphy; the 3rd preferred Republicans by an average of 22.7 points according to the composite of 2016-2020 races, and Trump would have carried the district by 25 points in 2020. Solid Republican.
Connecting the northern vertices of the Research Triangle in Durham, the 4th maintains its strong Democratic stripes. The district has an average partisanship of D+33.1 according to the 2016-2020 statewide composite, and it would have voted for Biden by 35 points in 2020. But with long-time Democratic Rep. David Price retiring, a sizable field has emerged to replace him, including Durham County commissioner Nida Allam, state Sen. Valerie Foushee, and American Idol Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken (who finished with 41 percent in the general election as a candidate in the old 2nd District in 2014). Given the 4th’s partisanship, the winner of the Democratic primary gets the seat. Solid Democratic.
Located in the northwest region of the state, the 5th has flipped from vertical to horizontal. It keeps Alleghany, Ashe, Watauga, Wilkes, and Caldwell counties, but now extends east toward Forsyth County and the city of Winston-Salem, rather than south toward Cleveland and Gaston counties. According to the 2016-2020 composite of election results, the 5th voted for Republicans by an average of 20.9 points, and it would have voted for Trump by 21 points in 2020. Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx is on track to her tenth term. Solid Republican.
The 6th stays rooted in Guilford and Forsyth counties, but its reach around Winston-Salem has been pared down. The Triad district also now extends to North Carolina’s northern border by adding Rockingham County and most of Caswell County. These changes will transform the 6th from a safe Democratic hold to a slightly less surefire bet: with an average partisanship of D+9.5, the new seat is approximately 10 points more favorable for Republicans than under the previous lines. Biden would have carried the district by 11 points in 2020. Even with less friendly lines, freshman Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning is heavily out-fundraising the GOP field, which includes 2020 nominee Lee Haywood, who lost to Manning in 2020, 62-38 percent. Likely Democratic.
The 7th is North Carolina’s southernmost district, containing the city of Wilmington. It now picks up Robeson County and parts of Cumberland County, while losing its northward stretch into Sampson, Harnett, and Johnston counties. The district’s average partisanship was R+10.2 in the 2016-2020 composite of elections, so Republican Rep. David Rouzer should have little problem coasting to a fifth term among an electorate that would have preferred Trump by 13 points in 2020. Solid Republican.
North Carolina’s new congressional map cuts the Southern Piedmont districts, including the 8th, into new shapes. Previously, the region was divided into a northern district (the 8th) and a southern district (the 9th). But under the new maps, the region is split east-west, with the 8th in the west and the 9th in the east. The new 8th keeps Stanly and Montgomery counties as well as parts of Cabarrus County, but it now takes in Rowan and Davidson counties to the north and Union County, Anson County, and most of Richmond County to the south.
Republican Rep. Dan Bishop, who currently represents the 9th District, will instead run in the 8th. Approximately 40 percent of the new 8th comes Bishop’s current district, according to Daily Kos Elections. Another 42 percent comes from Rep. Ted Budd’s old district, but Budd is running for Senate. Bishop should win easily in a district Trump would have carried by 33 points. Solid Republican.
While the new 8th District occupies the western half of the Southern Piedmont, the new 9th District takes the east. The 9th keeps Scotland and Hoke counties, while also taking in Randolph, Chatham, and Lee counties, adding parts of Harnett and Cumberland counties, and fully absorbing Moore County.
The result is a Republican-tinged seat. The 9th has an average partisanship of R+5 in the composite of 2016-2020 elections, and the district would have voted for Trump by 7 points in 2020. Republican Rep. Richard Hudson, currently of the 8th District, is running in the new 9th — in effect swapping places with Bishop. While he faces an opponent in Democratic state Sen. Ben Clark, Hudson still looks like a favorite, especially in a favorable year for his party. In 2020, Hudson dispatched a strong Democratic opponent, former state Supreme Court justice Pat Timmons-Goodson, by 6 points in a district with similar partisanship to his new one. Solid Republican.
Still grabbing the counties northwest of Charlotte, the 10th now extends northward toward Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, Yadkin, and Forsyth counties, in return losing its coverage in the southwest. But while the district’s outskirts changed, its politics did not. Trump would have carried the 10th by 39 points in 2020, and its average partisanship was R+39 according to the 2016-2020 composite — all good news for Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry. Solid Republican.
The 11th is North Carolina’s westernmost district and is home to the city of Asheville. Apart from the loss of Mitchell and Avery counties and some rearrangements in Rutherford County, it is nearly identical to its previous configuration.
An earlier version of the map made more significant changes to the 11th, and had prompted Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn to switch to a different seat. But the final lines ultimately lured him back. The controversial freshman faces a half-dozen challengers from his own party, including state Sen. Chuck Edwards and 11th District GOP chairwoman Michele Woodhouse, as well as Democratic opponents including Buncombe County commissioner/Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara. But Cawthorn’s thorny reputation aside, the district preferred Republicans by an average of 10 points between 2016 and 2020, and it would have voted for Trump by 10 points in 2020. Solid Republican.
Located in Charlotte, the 12th has been redrawn to span the northern part of Mecklenburg County and the western half of Cabarrus County, making way for the new 14th District to the south. With an average partisanship of D+24.9 in the 2016-2020 composite, this Biden+31 seat should be an easy keep for Democratic Rep. Alma Adams. Solid Democratic.
The 13th is a new district serving the southern half of the Raleigh area and its suburbs. The district balances growing cities in Wake County, such as Apex and Cary, with the GOP-friendly Johnston County and portions of Wayne and Harnett counties. As a result, the 13th is likely to be North Carolina’s most competitive seat: its average in the composite of 2016-2020 elections was a mere R+0.1. Biden would have carried the district by 2 points in 2020, a 4-point improvement relative to Hillary Clinton four years earlier.
Unsurprisingly, a long list of candidates has emerged in the 13th. On the GOP side, candidates include former college football wide receiver Bo Hines (who has been endorsed by Trump), former Rep. Renee Ellmers, businessman Kent Keirsey, attorney Kelly Daughtry, Chad Slotta, and DeVan Barbour. Democrats include state Sen. Wiley Nickel and former state Sen. Sam Searcy. Simply put, this is an open seat race for a swing seat in the suburbs of North Carolina. Toss-Up.
The all-new 14th District will be situated in the Charlotte area, just south of the 12th. To make this happen, the lines bring in the southern half of Mecklenburg County and the eastern half of Gaston County. The district preferred Democrats by an average of 8.1 points between 2016 and 2020, and it would have voted for Biden by 16 points in 2020. The top candidate to fill the open seat is Democratic state Sen. Jeff Jackson, who dropped out of the Senate race late last year. Republican Army veteran and handgun manufacturer Pat Harrigan is running. Likely Democratic.