Parity of NC Democrats in Congressional delegation may be fleeting

RALEIGH, NC (AP) — Democrats this month celebrated winning what has been billed as North Carolina’s only race for the U.S. House, as Sen. Wiley’s narrow victory Nickel on Republican Bo Hines in the 13th congressional district helped weaken any national GOP midterm wave.

Nickel’s victory creates a 7-7 split in the state’s delegation, marking the state’s best showing for Democrats in a decade of trailing the GOP in an otherwise tightly divided state. Trial judges drew the latest district boundaries after redistricting litigation successfully blocked maps passed by the Republican-controlled legislature that could have cut Democrats to four seats.

“We’re a 50-50 state — we should have a 7-7 delegation,” Nickel told The Associated Press this week during a break in his congressional orientation in Washington. “When we have fair cards, we get fair results. that reflect voter choice.

But chances are the Raleigh-area Nickel District and others will be drastically changed for the 2024 election, returning the advantage to Republicans.

A confluence of events opens the door for Republicans in the General Assembly to adopt their favorite Congressional card in 2023 and use it the following year. A new GOP majority on the state Supreme Court is likely to be more skeptical of legal challenges alleging excessive partisanship.

“Seven-Seven does not reflect the will of North Carolina voters,” House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters the day after the election. “So it should be something different. I do not know what it is. But at the end of the day…let’s trust the voters of this state.

Republicans hold eight of the state’s 13 US House districts through the end of the year. Population growth gave North Carolina a 14th seat in the November election.

GOP lawmakers vehemently objected to a split opinion by the state Supreme Court last winter that struck down a more favorable map for their party by saying the state constitution prohibited partisan border gerrymandering. .

State law required that the map drawn by the judge be used only for that year’s races. Republicans will continue to have majorities in the State House and Senate next year comfortable enough to adopt their favorite map. The redistricting plans are not subject to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto.

More importantly, Republicans will have a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court in January with the wins of Trey Allen and Richard Dietz for the seats currently held by Registered Democrats.

The current 4-to-3 Democratic majority ruled that Congressional and legislative maps approved by the General Assembly in November 2021 illegally gave Republicans outsized patronage over Democrats. The three dissenting Republican justices wrote that the constitution does not expressly prohibit or limit partisan advantage in mapping.

The arrival of two more GOP justices makes it more likely — but not certain — that the court will uphold a future congressional map by the legislature while overturning last year’s landmark ruling that defined illegal partisan gerrymandering.

Senate Leader Phil Berger said he expects the state to now move away from what he called the “judicial gerrymander” for “what would be, I think, a different drawing Congress Cards.

It’s too early to tell what the next lines of Congress will look like. Plans approved by the legislature but never implemented would have positioned Republicans to win 10 of the state’s 14 congressional seats.

Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College in Salisbury, said Nickel would be a likely target for Republican lawmakers to place in a more GOP-friendly quarter.

Democratic State Sen. Jeff Jackson, who won the newly created 14th District seat covering parts of Mecklenburg and Gaston counties, and Democratic 6th District Rep. Kathy Manning of Greensboro, who won her third term, are also vulnerable, Bitzer said.

It is possible that the state Supreme Court change will be moot. A dispute over the Congressional map is before the U.S. Supreme Court and could result in state courts losing the ability to rule on laws involving federal elections, including seat limits. Oral arguments are scheduled for next month in the case, in which attorneys for Berger and Moore argue that the US Constitution delegates “the times, places and manner” of congressional elections solely to state legislatures.

“Even if they fail in the Supreme Court of the United States, they now have a State Supreme Court that is very likely to show deference to whatever the Legislature proposes, excusing any precedent “achieved by the justices. of the state, Bitzer said.

An analysis by Bitzer of statewide federal contests in North Carolina since 2008 shows that Republican candidates have won nearly 51% of the cumulative votes compared to 47% for Democrats. But the idea that a political party should be guaranteed to have seats aligned with its percentage of support at the polls over time was rejected by leading and dissenting opinion writers from the state Supreme Court in February. last.

Nickel said he wasn’t worried about what a future card would look like.

“We have a huge opportunity to make real bipartisan achievements in the next Congress, so that’s really the goal,” Nickel said. “At some point they’ll draw new maps, but I’m optimistic that when that happens we’ll have a seat we can race in.”


Schoenbaum is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.