Democrats are likely to fare well in the court-ordered redraw of North Carolina’s congressional maps. Multiple sources tell Carolina Journal that new bipartisan congressional maps would result in seven solid GOP seats, five solid Democrat seats, and two swing districts.

The General Assembly must approve new congressional and legislative maps by Friday to meet a deadline set by the N.C. Supreme Court. A three-judge panel must approve new maps by Feb. 23, one day before candidate filing for all N.C. elections is scheduled to resume.

Under the plan now under consideration, Democrats would achieve a long-stated goal of creating a new district in North Carolina’s Sandhills region. It would be a swing district. The newly created 13th District would also be significantly altered. It would go from a double-digit GOP seat to a swing seat.

The party that controls the White House usually faces a tough election during the new president’s first mid-term election. If Democrats were to overcome historical odds, they could achieve an even 7-7 split in North Carolina’s 14-seat congressional delegation. If the Republicans perform well this November, they could earn a 9-5 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation. If the two major political parties split the swing seats, there would be eight GOP members and six Democratic members in the delegation.

It is worth noting that math experts for the Democrat-aligned plaintiffs testified that nonpartisan computer simulations most often resulted in a 9-5 GOP majority map. Likely Republican victories would be capped at no more than that in the maps currently under consideration.

Various experts and computer programs estimated that the GOP would likely win 10 or 11 congressional seats under the map recently invalidated by the state Supreme Court. With the new configuration, North Carolina Democrats would be virtually assured of two more congressional seats than in the previous draw.

While the new congressional map is still going through some fine-tuning, it could be released late on Tuesday, Feb. 15. It is likely to be supported by Republican and Democrat leaders in both legislative chambers.

Specifically, Democrats would retain two Democrat seats drawn out of Wake, Durham, and Orange counties, one of which is an open seat with Rep. David Price retiring. The other district is currently represented by Rep. Deborah Ross.

The Greensboro-area congressional district would be redrawn to protect incumbent Democrat Congresswoman Kathy Manning.

The eastern N.C. district now represented by retiring Democrat G.K. Butterfield would move from a Democrat-leaning swing seat to a solid Democrat seat by picking up a considerable part of Pitt County, as well as some of the “finger counties,” including Elizabeth City in Pasquotank County.

Overall, Democrats would achieve their goal of protecting three of their incumbents and would be virtually guaranteed to elect Democrats in two other open seats. Using the numbering from the recently invalidated maps, the Democrat-leaning seats would be:

  • NC-2  (Open)
  • NC-5 (Rep. Deborah Ross)
  • NC-6 (open)
  • NC-7  (Rep. Kathy Manning)
  • NC-9 (Rep. Alma Adams)

The Republican districts would also change significantly, but the map would likely achieve a GOP goal of protecting its current incumbents.

  • NC-1 (Rep. Greg Murphy)
  • NC-3 (Rep. David Rouser)
  • NC-8 (Rep. Dan Bishop)
  • NC-10 (Rep. Richard Hudson)
  • NC-11 (Rep. Virginia Foxx)
  • NC-12 (Rep. Patrick McHenry)

North Carolina’s most western district, NC-14, would continue to be a strong GOP seat. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who currently represents this district, has said he is moving east to the newly drawn NC-13. But Cawthorn may have some difficult choices to make. The newly drawn 13th congressional seat is expected to contain few of his current voters. The new 13th would contain half of Rutherford County, Cleveland, Gaston, and much of the Mecklenburg suburbs. This would make it a swing seat, with perhaps a slight GOP lean. Some of Cawthorn’s current voters will be reallocated into the McHenry’s district.

The 14th would have many of Cawthorn’s current voters, potentially forcing him to choose between continuing his campaign in the readjusted 13th District with more moderate and urban GOP primary voters, and a district that will be highly competitive in the fall. He also would face an organized and funded state Sen. Chuck Edwards, who will continue his campaign in the 14th District no matter what Cawthorn does. There are several other candidates running along with Edwards that could divide the anti-Cawthorn vote.

The maps would no longer have a GOP-leaning open district in NC-4, made up of Johnston, Harnett, Cumberland, and Sampson counties.

It would be replaced with a swing Sandhills seat that would contain Cumberland, Robeson, Hoke, and other counties. Democrat state Sen. Ben Clark, D-Hoke, has long fought for creating this district.

Other likely changes to the map could include Rep. Greg Murphy picking up Wayne County in his district and Johnston County being divided into two districts, one of which might be a Democrat-leaning district. This could be a point of contention for voters in Johnston, one of North Carolina’s fastest-growing and strongly Republican counties.

If the courts reject this map proposal, the trial court has been authorized to adopt a new set of maps for 2022 only. Whichever party is in control of the General Assembly next year would be free to re-draw the congressional map.

Due to the state constitutional requirement that counties stay as whole as possible when drawing the state legislative maps, N.C. Democrats could also see more benefit in state House and Senate maps. However, they are unlikely to get as much of an edge there, as is expected in the new congressional map.