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Friday, July 1, 2011

4 N.C. Dems Face Uphill Battle In 2012: Heath, Kissell, McIntyre, Shuler (Redistricting)

Proposed N.C. Map Seeks Large GOP Gains

On the road to House Democrats’ goal of winning back the majority, North Carolina is now their biggest and most jarring speed bump.

A draft map of new Congressional districts released Friday by the GOP-controlled state Legislature politically endangers four Democrats in the state: Reps. Brad Miller, Larry Kissell, Mike McIntyre and Heath Shuler. While it leaves each Member in the his own district, they are not districts that will be easy to win.

The Republican-drawn map also shores up the district of Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Republican freshman who won an upset victory in 2010.

The current Congressional delegation is split with six Republicans and seven Democrats. Republicans hope the new map would give them a split of nine Republican districts, three Democratic districts and one tossup district in a wave year such as 2008 and 10 Republican districts in a wave year such as 2010.

The three safe Democratic districts are the two majority-minority districts held by Reps. G.K. Butterfield and Mel Watt and Rep. David Price’s Raleigh-Durham-based district. Under the draft map, all three districts grow substantially more Democratic. But all Republican incumbents, including Ellmers — along with Miller, Kissell, McIntyre and Shuler — would be in districts that would have voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 by at least 55 percent.

One of the two most vulnerable Members under the draft lines is Miller, a former North Carolina state Senator who chaired the redistricting committee a decade ago and helped draw the district he now occupies. But 10 years later, he has very few friends left in the state Legislature, Democrats and Republicans in the state said.

He won re-election in 2010 with 56 percent of the vote, but McCain got just 40 percent in the current district in 2008. Under the draft map, McCain would have carried Miller’s district with 56 percent. Miller’s middling fundraising haul in the first quarter of this year, only $32,000, has left some thinking the Congressman is headed for retirement, though his spokeswoman said recently he is indeed running for re-election.

Another exceedingly vulnerable Democrat is Shuler, who won his third term in 2010 with 54 percent of the vote. A recent report, which was not denied by his spokesman, said he is in talks with the University of Tennessee at Knoxville to become athletic director. His 11th district was previously just slightly Republican but would be one of the most Republican in the state under the draft lines. It loses parts of liberal Buncombe County and gains four counties from the conservative 10th district. Shuler’s current district gave McCain 52 percent and President George W. Bush 59 percent in 2004. Under the new lines, those numbers jump to 58 percent for McCain and 64 percent for Bush. A likely GOP candidate for the district is Hendersonville District Attorney Jeff Hunt, Republicans said.

Under North Carolina law, if a Congressional seat becomes vacant before February 2012, the governor would call a special primary and general election to fill the vacancy. The time frame for calling the elections appears to be at the governor’s discretion, an official at the North Carolina State Board of Elections said.

Another vulnerable Democrat is Kissell, a sophomore whose 8th district on the South Carolina border shifts from a district that went 47 percent for McCain in 2008 to a district that the Arizona Senator would have carried with 55 percent. Even more telling is the fact that Sen. John Kerry received 44 percent in 2004 in the current district, while under the new lines he would have taken just 38 percent of the vote there. The 8th gains half of Robeson County along with portions of Rowan, Davidson and Randolph counties.

McIntyre’s district grows more Republican, but he may be able to hold it. McCain carried the current 7th district with 52 percent. Under the draft lines, he would have taken 55 percent.

North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue (D) does not have legal authority to veto the new map. Top legislators in the state hope to complete the Congressional redistricting process by the end of the month.

Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, any map passed into law must be cleared by the Department of Justice or a federal court before it can be enforced.

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Sources: Carolina Politics Online, Politico, Roll Call, Youtube, Google Maps

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