RALEIGH – The national campaign committees for the Democrat and Republican parties are spinning furiously as the redistricting process winds down in key states. Citing the potential political fallout from a sour economy, Democrats say they have a good chance of taking back a slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, lost in the 1994 GOP sweep. Republicans say that redistricting and the popularity of George W. Bush may mean an eight- to 10-seat pickup for them.
Who’s right? A lot depends on what happens in North Carolina, believe it or not.
Democratic operatives say they can net at least six seats this November (just enough to assume control) despite an expected loss of nine seats from redistricting in Republican-led states, including three each in Pennsylvania and Michigan. They say they can get to that number by picking up four seats in Georgia, three in Iowa, one each in California, Louisiana, and Nevada – and two in North Carolina. That means taking out Rep. Robin Hayes in the 8th district, stretching from Charlotte to Fayetteville, and winning the new open 13th district, stretching from Raleigh to Greensboro.
Republicans describe a different scenario. They think they can win more seats in states like Texas, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. And they think they can hold their loss in North Carolina to just one seat, the new 13th, while protecting Hayes. Some Republicans further believe that our congressional map may still be redrawn, thus giving them a chance of being competitive in the 13th and possibly the 2nd, an Eastern North Carolina district now held by Rep. Bobby Etheridge, a Democrat.
So Hayes – who cast the deciding vote in a December congressional fight over free trade – may now represent the deciding seat in control of the U.S. House, if Democrats prevail in their other spotlighted contests. Expect lots of attention to the Hayes race from national politicians (including the president), the news media, and political donors.
It may turn out to be more consequential than the race to replace Sen. Jesse Helms.