Editor’s note: this story has been updated from the original posting to include more specific partisan leaning data according to analysis by the N.C. General Assembly.
While state lawmakers urge the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in the 2022 N.C. Congressional maps, filing in the map’s district races is over, for now. At noon on March 4 filing closed with a May 17 primary election ahead. Within the week, the nation’s 6-3 conservative majority high court could decide in favor of the “independent state legislature doctrine,” as N.C. lawmakers are requesting. Their argument is based on the U.S. Constitution elections clause that says state legislatures, not courts or other appointees, are entitled to draw congressional maps. If the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes, it could throw out the maps that a Wake County Superior Court panel imposed, which were drawn by special masters appointed by N.C.’s democrat majority Supreme Court.
In the meantime, congressional candidates have filed under the map imposed by the 3-judge panel, expected to yield a more favorable outcome for Democrats. The court-imposed maps show fewer competitive races and more safe incumbents than the Republican legislature’s maps.
Below is a rundown of each of the 14 districts, including which counties are included, who is running and any partisan advantage.
District 1: D+9 (54%-45%)
North Carolina’s new 1st Congressional District comprises 18 full counties and one partial county in the rural northeast of the state: Bertie, Chowan, Edgecombe, Franklin, Gates, Greene, Halifax, Hertford, Martin, Nash, Northampton, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Pitt (partial), Tyrrell, Vance, Warren, Washington and Wilson.
According to the partisan breakdown of votes in a composite of statewide elections from 2016 and 2020, provided by the General Assembly (see page 14), the district voted 54% Democrat and 45% Republican in recent statewide races.
With the filing now closed, those running in District 1 are Julian Bishop, Jason Albert Spriggs, Don Davis and Erica Smith on the Democrat side and Brent Roberson, Sandy Roberson, Brad Murphy, Ernest Reeves, Henry Williams II, Sandy Smith, Billy Strickland and Will Aiken on the Republican side.
The Democratic primary could be competitive between state Sen. Don Davis, a veteran and a moderate Democrat who has served in the state Senate for six terms, and Erica Smith, a former state Senate member who has recently run for U.S. Senate and congressional seats. The incumbent, U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat, announced he would retire after his term expired.
District 2: D+25 (62%-37%)
The new 2nd District covers northern Wake County, the home of major urban centers like Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville and Wake Forest. The highly urban voter base is largely left leaning, with the analysis of recent voting patterns showing 62% support Democratic candidates and only 37% support Republican ones.
While three Republicans have filed to run — Christine E. Villaverde, Adina Safta and Max Ganorkar — the heavy Democratic advantage would be difficult to overcome. Considering the only Democrat who has filed for the seat is Rep. Deborah Ross, a current U.S. congresswoman with years of political experience representing the same northern Wake neighborhoods while in the state House, Democrats are likely to consider this a safe blue seat.
District 3: R+24 (61%-37%)
The new 3rd District includes much of the coast, including Beaufort, Camden, Carteret, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, Onslow, Pamlico, Pitt, Sampson and Wayne counties.
This district is about as safe for Republicans as the 2nd District is for Democrats. Voting-pattern analysis shows 61% vote for Republicans and 37% for Democrats. Also like with District 2, the party with the advantage also has a strong incumbent candidate, in this case U.S. Rep. Greg Murphy, a Republican who represents the current 3rd District, which has many of the same counties.
In addition to Murphy, George Papastrat, Eric Earhart, Tony Cowden and Brian Friend are running as Republicans, and Joe Swartz and Barbara Gaskins are running for the Democratic nomination.
District 4: D+33% (66%-33%)
The 4th District covers Alamance, Orange, Durham, Person, Granville and a small sliver of Caswell counties. With the large liberal populations of Orange and Durham, the district leans very heavily towards the Democrats, despite the more evenly balanced populations of smaller Alamance, Person and Granville counties. The voting analysis shows this is among the least competitive districts in the state under the new maps, with 66% of voters preferring Democrats and only 33% preferring Republicans.
Because of that, and because of long-time U.S. Rep. David Price’s retirement, the Democratic primary has a long list of choices — eight in total. Among this number are prominent local Democrats, like Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, N.C. Sen. Valierie Foushee and even former American Idol contestant Clay Aiken. The other five are Ashley Ward, Richard L. Watkins, Crystal Cavalier, Stephen J. Valentine and Matt Grooms. Courtney Geels and Robert Thomas are running as Republicans.
District 5: R+21 (60%-39%)
The 5th District comprises Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, almost all of Caldwell, Davie, western Forsyth, Mitchell, Stokes, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin counties. These mountain counties in the far northwest of the state are home to Appalachian State University and thriving tourism Christmas-tree farming industries.
The district, according to voting analysis, prefers Republicans 60% to 39%. One Democrat, Kyle Parrish, has filed to run. U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx and Michael Ackerman are the only Republicans to have filed. With Foxx’s many years in the U.S. House representing the area, she has a large fundraising and name-identification advantage over Ackerman, a military and law enforcement veteran who was terminated from his position as a court counselor in October for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
District 6: D+11 (55%-44%)
The 6th District covers the rest of Forsyth County, as well as Guilford, Rockingham and Caswell counties. These Triad-area counties include cities like Greensboro, High Point and parts of Winston-Salem. But with the inclusion of some rural surrounding areas, the district is fairly competitive, with the voting analysis showing 55% of voters in recent statewide races favoring Democrats and 44% favoring Republicans.
Democrats seem to have settled with their candidate, as the only name on the list after the filing deadline passed was current 6th Congressional District Rep. Kathy Manning. The 11-point lean plus the incumbency advantage makes Manning the favorite going in. But many are predicting a better-than-usual year for Republicans based on polling. Six Republicans (Bill Schuch, Laura Pichardo, Gerry Austin, Marvin Boguslawski, Mary Ann Contogiannis, Lee Haywood and Christian Castelli) and one Libertarian (Thomas Watercott) entered the race seeing a potential opening for a pickup.
District 7: R+11 (55%-44%)
The new 7th District makes up the southeastern corner of the state, including New Hanover, Robeson, eastern Cumberland, Bladen, Columbus, Pender and Brunswick counties. The area includes cities like Wilmington and Fayetteville but also many rural coastal areas and right-trending Lumbee Indian country. The voting analysis shows that this district favors Republicans 55% to 44%.
Yushonda Midgette, Charles E. Evans, Steve Miller and Charles Graham are running as Democrats, and Max Southworth-Beckwit and U.S. Rep. David Rouzer are running as Republicans. State Rep. Charles Graham, a long-time N.C. House member who is a Lumbee tribal member, may be an early favorite for Democrats. But it will be difficult to beat Rouzer, who represents the current 7th District, which has many of the same counties, in Congress.
District 8: R+33 (66%-33%)
The new 8th District covers many central Piedmont counties to the south of the Triad areas but to the east of the Charlotte area, including: Stanly, Davidson, Rowan, Montgomery, Anson, Union, eastern Cabarrus and western Richmond. It is a very rural district but does include some suburbs of both Charlotte and the Triad. Voting analysis shows that the 8th District favors Republicans 66% to 33%.
With such a large margin to overcome, it wasn’t clear if any Democrats were going to file for the seat. But the day before filing closed, Scott Huffman of Harrisburg, a small business owner and Navy veteran, threw his hat into the ring. U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop, who currently represents many of the counties in the old 9th District, is the only Republican running, making him the presumptive overall winner.
District 9: R+7 (53%-46%)
The new 9th District lies just to the east of the 8th, just south of the Triad and Triangle and stretching down to the South Carolina border. The counties included are Randolph, Moore, Chatham, Lee, Hoke, Scotland, northwestern Cumberland, western Harnett and eastern Richmond. Voting analysis shows the district as favoring Republicans 53% to 46% in recent statewide races, making it one of the more competitive districts under the new maps.
For the Democrats, only five-term state Sen. Ben Clark has filed, but four have filed on the Republicans side: Francisco Rios, Jen Bucardo, Mike Andriani and U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson. Hudson is rising star in House leadership and currently represents Fort Bragg and other areas of the new 9th District in his current district, so he is favored in both the primary and general. Clark’s veteran background and more-moderate voting history in the General Assembly make him a competitive choice for the Democrats in the military-heavy district though.
District 10: R+39% (69%-30%)
The new 10th District lies in the southern foothills of the state’s western mountains. This includes Alexander, Cleveland, Burke, Catawba, Lincoln, Iredell, eastern Rutherford and northwestern Gaston counties. The district has the largest political advantage of any district for either party, with 69% of votes in recent statewide elections going to Republicans and only 30% to Democrats.
Two Democrats — Pam Genant and Michael Felder — have nonetheless filed for the race, as have five Republicans, Gary Robinson, Richard Speer, Jeff Gregory, Michael Magnotta and U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry. McHenry represents some of this area in his current district, the old 10th District, although the old district is less compact and travels far to the north.
District 11: R+11 (55%-44%)
The new 11th District covers the mountainous far-west region of the state, including Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Swain, Jackson, Macon, McDowell, Haywood, Transylvania, Buncombe, Madison, Henderson, Polk, Yancey and western Rutherford counties. According to voting analysis, the district went 55% Republican and 44% Democrat in recent statewide races.
Six Democrats have filed for the seat: Katie Dean, Bo Hess, Marco Gutierrez, Bynum M. Lunsford, Jay Carey and Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara. On the Republican side, Bruce O’Connell, Wendy Marie-Limbaugh Nevarez, Matthew Burril, state Sen. Chuck Edwards, Rod Honeycutt, Michele Woodhouse, Kristie Sluder and U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn are all running. There is also a Libertarian running, David Adam Coatney.
This crowded primary could be a repeat of the tight race in 2020 after Mark Meadows vacated the mountain district to become then-President Donald Trump’s chief of staff. The 11th District may be the most likely district in the state for an incumbent to lose a seat, but it would be due to a primary not a general election challenger. This is because Cawthorn has become controversial both in and out of the party. Edwards has gained momentum against Cawthorn, even in their mutual hometown of Hendersonville.
District 12: D+28 (63%-35%)
The new 12th District covers northern Mecklenburg and western Cabarrus counties in the Charlotte area. It is a very urban and highly Democratic-leaning district, with voting analysis showing 63% of votes for Democrats and only 35% for Republicans in recent statewide races.
Two Democrats have filed for the 12th District race, John Sharkey and U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, who represents the area in Congress now in the old 12 District. Republicans Nalini Joseph, Andrew Huffman, and Tyler Lee are running for the seat as well. Adams, with her incumbency and the heavily Democratic population, seems likely to maintain her seat.
District 13: Toss-up
The new 13th District covers Johnston, southern Wake, northern Harnett and western Wayne counties. The area is partially urban, including the southern suburbs of Raleigh, like Garner, Apex, Fuquay-Varina and Holly Springs. But further from the capital, some of the district has more rural and exurban voters. Voting analysis shows that 49.7% of the vote went to Democrats and 49.1% went to Republicans in recent statewide elections, making it the state’s only true toss-up in the interim congressional districts.
Five Democrats have filed: Denton Lee, Jamie Campbell Bowles, Nathan Click, former state Sen. Sam Searcy, and two-term state Sen. Wiley Nickel. For the Republicans, there is a full field of eight candidates: DeVan Barbour, Chad Slotta, Kelly Kathleen Daughtry, Kent Keirsey, Bo Hines, Kevin Alan Wolff, Jessica Morel and former U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers. In addition to Ellmers, Hines has also caught early attention, as a 26-year-old former N.C. State University football player, getting some comparisons to North Carolina’s young congressman from the west, Madison Cawthorn.
District 14: D+11 (55%-44%)
The new 14th District covers southern Mecklenburg County and eastern Gaston County. These areas are largely urban or suburban, but there are pockets of Republican voters throughout. The voting analysis shows that the district has voted 55% Democrat and 44% Republican in recent elections.
Two Democrats, Ram Mammadov and state Sen. Jeff Jackson, are running for the seat. Jackson dropped out of the Democratic U.S. Senate primary in December, citing former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley’s consistent lead in polling. On the Republican side, Jonathan Simpson and Pat Harrigan have filed to run.
Overview: Many incumbents safe. Few competitive districts.
After these new court-imposed maps were released in late February, many analysts noted that there were fewer competitive districts and more safe incumbents when compared to the districts the Republican legislature had drawn. In the February 2022 court-ordered redraw, the legislature created four toss-up seats (Districts 6, 7, 13 and 14, see page 14), three more than the court-drawn maps later that month.
For Republicans, Reps. Murphy, Rouzer, Bishop, Hudson, McHenry, Foxx and Cawthorn are all likely to keep their seats. The one who may be in most danger of the group is Cawthorn, but from a crowded primary not due to a more competitive district. Rep. Ted Budd, the only remaining Republican member of the N.C. delegation, is running for the U.S. Senate not for re-election.
For Democrats, Reps. Deborah Ross, Kathy Manning and Alma Adams are also likely to hold onto their seats. If Reps. G.K. Butterfield and David Price had not retired, then they would have likely held their seats as well. The seats they vacated, the 1st District and 4th District, still favor Democrats, although the 1st District could become competitive without Butterfield’s incumbency advantage. State Sen. Jeff Jackson also seems fairly likely to win the Charlotte area seat, where his time at the General Assembly and running for U.S. Senate have given him wide name recognition and support among Democratic voters.
All this would suggest a N.C. congressional delegation after the 2022 elections of either eight Republicans and six Democrats (a pickup of one seat for the Democrats compared to the current 8-5 delegation) or seven Republicans and seven Democrats (a pickup of two seats for the Democrats and loss of one for the Republicans) — the difference coming down to which party wins the toss-up race in the 13th District.