North Carolina began its redistricting process for the 2022 elections in early August. Six and a half months later legislative and congressional maps for 2022 became final after the Democrat-controlled state supreme court seized control of the process forcing the legislature to bend to its will and adopt Democrat-friendly legislative maps. The court then imposed a court-drawn Democrat gerrymandered congressional map.
In the process, Democrats gained serious ground, and Republicans were left wounded, likely angry, and dedicated to retribution.
However, Republicans are well-positioned to rebound and serve up some revenge.
We will not relitigate the constitutional arguments here. I previously stated that only an extremely partisan supreme court would throw out the original maps. I stand by that.
What will this all mean in 2022?
Republicans are set to lose ground in North Carolina’s congressional delegation. Under a new congressional redistricting map imposed by a panel of three superior court judges, guided by three special masters, Republicans can do no better than the current eight U.S. House seats they currently occupy in the 13-seat map. Democrats would be guaranteed to do no worse than six seats, under the new 14 seat map, up from their current five seats.
As noted by national redistricting guru Dave Wasserman, across the state the court-imposed congressional map “cracks” black voters into separate areas.
The NC special masters’ map is pretty much exactly proportional to the state’s lean (7R-6D-1C), but it makes some curious choices to get there. Most notably, it splits Black communities down the middle in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville and Raleigh. pic.twitter.com/4KenQ16Tb4
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) February 23, 2022
To add insult to Republicans’ injury, the court imposed a congressional map that, had it been passed by the legislature itself, would likely be struck down as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning was gifted a safe Democrat seat based in Guilford County. The version of the map passed by the legislature had Manning in a swing seat.
Democrats will now be gifted two safe Democrat congressional seats based in Mecklenburg County. One of those seats will continue to be represented by Democrat Alma Adams, another will be an open seat guaranteed for Democrats.
The changes in Mecklenburg would end the planned congressional bid of N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore, who was set to run in a new swing seat with Cleveland, Gaston and much of Mecklenburg County. Moore’s home county of Cleveland is now in incumbent Republican U.S. Representative Patrick McHenry’s district, a key Moore ally.
Congressman Madison Cawthorn is planning on returning to North Carolina’s far western 11th Congressional District.
Republican Congressman Richard Hudson appears set to move to Moore County, an area he has represented in Congress at times. He will run in North Carolina’s new 9th Congressional District. This is a new Sandhills district that leans GOP. It includes all of Moore, Lee, Chatham, Randolph, Hoke, most of Scotland, and about 1/5th of Cumberland. Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson won the district in 2020 by 9.4%. Gov. Roy Cooper lost it by less than a point. We consider this barely a swing district but more of a GOP lean. This district will strongly favor the GOP in 2022.
Dan Bishop will take in most of Hudson’s home county of Cabarrus and will represent GOP powerhouses Union and Davidson. Robinson won this solid red district by 38%.
Democrats will be guaranteed two seats anchored in Mecklenburg. One of which is held by Democrat Alma Adams, Kathy Manning’s Guilford Seat, Deborah Ross’ Wake County seat, A Durham-Orange based seat, and an eastern NC seat currently held by retiring Democrat G.K. Butterfield.
State Senator Jeff Jackson (D-Mecklenburg) is running in the new solid Democrat NC-14 of south Mecklenburg and some of Gaston. Much of the district is his current state senate district.
Republicans Virginia Foxx, David Rouser, Greg Murphy, Patrick McHenry, Madison Cawthorn Dan Bishop, and Richard Hudson should be safe in the general election should they win any possible primary contests.
A Wake-Johnston and the new Sandhills district will be the state’s lone true toss-up. Fifty percent of the general election population is in Wake County. Johnston County is the only whole county in the district. Half of Harnett and half of Wayne make up the rest. Gov. Cooper and Lt. Gov. Robinson both won the district. The district leans a couple of points to the Democrats overall but should be winnable by either party in 2022. Johnston County Republican attorney Kelly Daughtry just deposited $2 million in her campaign account. She is the daughter of former NC GOP State House Majority Leader Leo Daughtry. Van Barber from Johnston County, also from a well respected JoCo political family is also in the race. Democrat State Senator Wiley Nickle, D-Wake, is the most prominent Democrat name so far.
“I’m excited to continue this campaign in North Carolina’s new 13th Congressional district. The Congressional map approved by the courts this week is fair, and is a huge win for democracy,” said Nickel. “Since my first term in the State Senate, I’ve served on the redistricting committee and fought for fair maps and an independent redistricting commission. This year, we’ll have the chance to truly compete for the best ideas to move our country forward.”
The court-imposed congressional maps will be in place only for 2022, so long as the GOP retains both legislative chambers, which they are highly likely to do.
The state supreme court forced the legislature to improve the maps for legislative Democrats.
“I think neither side will be happy with the maps,” said Andy Jackson of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity at the John Locke Foundation. “They diminish Republican power and lessen the odds of them getting a super-majority capable of overturning Gov. [Roy] Cooper’s vetoes in the next election. Democrats have an improved chance of winning a majority under the new maps, but those new maps do not help them fully overcome the geographic disadvantage of their supporters being relatively concentrated in a handful of urban areas.”
We estimate the forced revisions to the statehouse map resulted in a loss to the GOP of 3-6 seats.
Gov. Cooper won 63 of the 120 state house districts in the revised map.
Jackson estimates that the new House map has 16 competitive seats, twice as many as the previously enacted map, plus 54 “safe” Republican seats and 41 “safe” Democrat seats. Four seats in the new map lean Republican, while five lean Democrat, defined as being within a 5%-10% swing.
This distribution gives Democrats more of an edge than the previous maps that featured 38 “safe” seats for Democrats, and 12 that leaned Republican.
For Republicans to gain a statehouse supermajority (72) they will have to win: their 54 safe seats, four GOP lean seats, and 14 of the 20 swing/Democrat leaning districts. A steep climb, but not altogether impossible.
Given that analysis, the most likely outcome of the 2022 elections as of today is a statehouse with 68-72 GOP seats and 48-52 Democrat seats.
Jackson estimates that the revised maps may cost Republicans a minimum of two or three state senate seats. Gov. Cooper won half (25) of the new districts.
The revised state senate map makes capturing a supermajority (30 of 50) slightly more difficult but not impossible for Republicans. Lt. Gov. Robinson won 29 of the new districts. Donald Trump won 28 of the districts. If Republicans were to win the 29 Robinson districts, they would only have to pick up one more. The path to a supermajority in the state senate is slightly easier for the GOP in 2022 than in the statehouse.
If the legislative maps remain unchanged Democrats will have a solid shot at majorities in a strong Democrat year.
North Carolina will have a new congressional map in 2024 no matter what. Should Republicans capture the state supreme court the congressional map will be dramatically different. Republicans can easily create an 11-3 GOP map if the courts do not block their effort.
Republican attorneys not connected to the current redistricting case are already plotting to sue in 2023 to reverse the recent Democrat supreme court ruling. One argument that will be presented to the supreme court, if it has a GOP majority, will be that the rules imposed on the legislature were so erroneous that the legislative maps passed by the General Assembly were in effect court-ordered maps. This argument, if accepted by the court, would allow the legislature to also redraw the legislative districts in early 2023 under greatly more favorable circumstances. Further legal experts tell Carolina Journal that the specific text in the lower courts ruling opens the door to allow the legislature to redraw the legislative districts next year.