RALEIGH — Three Democratic incumbents will face a tough re-election fights next year under new congressional maps released today by the Republican-controlled state legislature.
The redrawn maps significantly weaken U.S. Reps. Brad Miller, D-13th; Heath Shuler, D-11th; and Larry Kissell, D-8th. Republicans currently have six of 13 congressional seats. If previous voting patterns hold, the GOP could gain a 9-4 or even 10-3 advantage in 2013.
The 2001 congressional map, from the General Assembly’s website, is below.
Miller’s current district stretches from northeastern Raleigh, hugs the Virginia border, and then dips down into Greensboro. Shuler’s district covers most of the mountainous areas of western North Carolina. Kissell’s stretches from east Charlotte to Fayetteville.
Under the new maps, Miller’s district is extended into Republican strongholds in Stokes and Surry counties and loses all of Greensboro.
The new map, also from the General Assembly’s website, is below.
For a hi-res version, click here (PDF download).
“When he chaired the N.C. Senate reapportionment committee 10 years ago, [Miller] drew himself a congressional district he could not lose. Now he’s in a district he cannot win,” said political consultant John Davis in an analysis of the new maps.
Rep. David Price, D-4th, benefits at Miller’s expense. His re-cast district loses more conservative parts of northern Orange County and parts of north Durham to Miller.
For Shuler’s diminished chances, Reps. Patrick McHenry, R-10th, and Virginia Foxx, R-5th, are the culprits. McHenry’s new district would cut into Buncombe County, a hotbed of Democratic votes, diluting Shuler’s base of support. In addition, Shuler picks up some conservative regions of Foxx’s district.
“The anchor for Democrats in this district has always been Buncombe County,” Davis said. “Not only has half of Buncombe County been put into Congressman McHenry’s safe Republican district, but several of the most Republican counties in the state have been moved from districts held by Congresswoman Foxx and Congressman McHenry to Heath Shuler’s district.”
Finally, Kissell has southern portions of three Republican-leaning counties — Rowan, Davidson, and Randolph — added to his district.
GOP incumbents protected
It also appears that Republicans in the legislature plan to defend Republican freshman Rep. Renee Ellmers of the 2nd Congressional District. Her new district is more Republican and more compact.
In the only change-up in a congressional seat in the state, Ellmers beat long-time incumbent Democrat Bob Etheridge in 2010. The original district favored Democrats 2-to-1 in voter registration.
Aside from Price, Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-7th, fared well in the redistricting. He picks up some additional Republican voters in Onslow and Carteret counties, but not enough to ensure defeat next year.
Overall, the Tar Heel State grew 18.5 percent between 2000 and 2010 to more than 9.5 million residents. As a result, the ideal size of districts will shift upward. And as the state’s population has shifted from rural to urban and suburban counties, some districts will get larger while some become smaller in geographic size.
One of the big surprises of the new congressional maps is that lawmakers didn’t opt to create a third Voting Rights Act district, which was rumored. A VRA district has a majority of minority voters in it.
Another rumor was that Democrats such as Price and Miller or McIntyre and Kissell would be “packed” into the same district, forcing the incumbents to run against one another. That didn’t happen.
David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.