RALEIGH – After congressional redistricting concludes aroundthe country, there may be no more than two dozen competitive seats left in the U.S. House, where the GOP holds a slim majority. One of these seats will likely be the 8th District of North Carolina currently held by Rep. Robin Hayes, a Cabarrus Republican and former state legislator and gubernatorial candidate.
Newly redrawn by Democratic partisans in the state legislature, the 8th now stretches from uptown Charlotte to the outskirts of Fayetteville. Hayes has lost some Republican-leaning precincts to the north and east of Charlotte, as well as elsewhere in his district. He will run in Democratic-leaning parts of Mecklenburg County for the first time. Although most observers saw his district as surviving the worst sort of Democratic gerrymander, it still clearly got less comfortable for him. National Democrats had a hand in all of this, and are prepared to devote resources to taking Hayes out next year.
The best news Hayes has gotten so far is a dearth of high-profile Democratic opponents. Former Charlotte judge Ray Warren, a Republican-turned-Democrat and now openly gay, seems likely to run as do two other less-known Dems. Rep. Wayne Goodwin of Rockingham and Union County Sheriff Frank McGuirt, both more threatening candidates to Hayes, have bowed out.
On the other hand, Democrats view Hayes’ recent (courageous) vote for a free-trade bill in Congress as a big vulnerability in a district where textile and apparel jobs are declining. National Republicans seem to agree; The Washington Post reports that congressional leaders are already meeting to figure how to defend Hayes from the expected protectionist demagoguery.
The best defense is to explain that free trade boosts the incomes of the vast majority of workers in North Carolina and the rest of the country by opening up foreign markets and reducing the prices of the goods and services we buy. That raises our real incomes, and thus creates new jobs in other industries as we buy or save more. States and countries never prosper by walling off their economies and forcing consumers to spend too much.