One of the hot items at the legislature this week was a bill filed by state House Rep. Erin Pare, R-Wake, that would take the current Wake County Commission’s seven districts and allow the voters of those districts to elect those who represent them.
You may be asking yourself, “Wait, who was electing the Wake commissioners if not the people of their respective districts?” Great question. For some reason, the entire county did, making Wake County the only large county in the state operating this way.
This would be like the entire state of North Carolina (which has been voting 52-48 Republican in recent statewide elections) electing all 14 of our U.S. House seats and having a 14-0 delegation. I’m sure Democrats would be totally fine with that, all their recent lawsuits aside.
So all this to say, commissioners for the seven districts below are chosen by voters mostly from outside the district.
Pare, understandably, thought this could be remedied by keeping the exact same districts but making them actual districts that elect their representatives. But Democrats did not seem to like this idea. Her colleague Rep. Julie von Haefen, D-Wake, called it “bad precedent.”
Now why do you think Democrats would prefer to elect all commissioner seats county wide? Could it be because, in a county that voted 62% for Joe Biden and 35% for Donald Trump in 2020, Democrats have easily controlled all seven seats on the commission since 2014? No, there must be another reason.
And the Wake County Democratic Party would be the perfect source to provide that reason, right? They called out our reporting on the issue, saying:
Their main concerns seem to be that the person should be capable of winning countywide (for some reason), that the GOP wants to rig the elections and suppress votes (sounds like election pre-denying to me), and that Pare is interfering with local control (but wouldn’t even localler [sic] control be allowing the districts to control who represents them?).
The Wake County Democratic Party stated that in the most recent election, the Democrats all won their districts anyway, so it’s not like any of these districts is being denied to Republicans, and that “Ending countywide representation for all citizens by all Commissioners with no at-large representation will pit district vs. district.”
Another interesting concern. They don’t want too much competition in general it seems — for the seats or between areas of the county.
And as Jim Stirling at the Civitas Center for Public Integrity pointed out, two of these seven districts would at least be competitive for a good Republican candidate. Wouldn’t want the 7-0 Democrat board to potentially be pitted against Republicans in a 5-2 board. That could get uncomfortable.