With the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision late Friday that it will not intervene in the state’s Congressional election maps case; a June 7 primary is all but guaranteed, presumably under the new map approved late last week.
And already a few politicians are thinking of how to take advantage of this second opportunity to seek office. How many will actually take the plunge, however, may not be known until after the “original” primary on March 15.
As of now, the March 15 will go on, including the voting for Congress. But if the old map is finally killed, the state will hold a Congressional primary election on June 7, with filing for the election opening at noon March 16, the day after the regular primary. Filing will end on March 25.
The timing allows for a strange set of circumstances that will allow elected officials running in other primaries to seal a victory and then file for a Congressional seat without risking losing their current seat. This may be especially tempting for those politicians who win a primary that is tantamount to victory in the November election.
The odd timing may mean that a surge of Congressional candidates could file for office after sealing their respective primaries on March 15.
A key change in the map is that it compresses the formerly serpentine District 12 that stretched from Charlotte to Greensboro into a single-county district centered on Charlotte.
Already state Sen. Joel Ford (D-Mecklenburg) has announced that he is considering a run for District 12, which is currently held by U.S. Rep. Alma Adams. She, however, lives in Greensboro and so was drawn out of her district in the redistricting process.
A member of Congress is not required to live in the district he or she represents. But there plainly is a strong political advantage to living in the district.
State Sen. Andrew Brock (R-Davie) and state Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) have both said that they are considering a run for the new District 13, which was moved across the state in the redrawn map, taking up much of the area formerly included in District 12 along I-85.
In the eastern part of NC, state Rep. Susi Hamilton (D-New Hanover) is considering a run for District 7, currently held by U.S. Rep. David Rouzer, of Benson.
John Aldrich, a political science professor with Duke University, said that he does not believe many state representatives will step up to challenge Congressional incumbents, except in districts where incumbents have been moved out of their districts, such as in District 12 and District 13.
“I’m guessing that there may be a few more, but probably not many,” Aldrich said. “It’s not really that long until the (June 7) primary and the really serious ones have to get the word out to their bases.”
Aldrich said that some prospective Congressional candidates might be waiting until after the March 15 primary to declare so that their run would not distract voters from voting for them in the primary on March 15.
On the other hand, Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, said that he believes candidates planning a Congressional run who are also in a March 15 primary will announce ahead of the first primary to avoid seeming manipulative.
“You look like you are manipulating everybody” by announcing a second run a day or two after winning an election, he said. “I don’t think many will do it, but I think it is a pretty interesting phenomenon.”
New districts set stage for Republican infighting
U.S. Rep. George Holding, currently of District 13, plans to challenge U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers in District 2 after his district was moved across the state in the redrawn map.
Holding was faced with the decision to try and win an election across the state from where he lives, or challenge an incumbent.
His options realistically included battling U.S. Rep. David Price, a Democrat who controls District 4 where Holding now lives, or challenge Ellmers in the neighboring District 2.
Many of the voters now in District 2 were in Holding’s district before the new map came out. That puts Holding in the position of fighting for many of his past voters, while incumbent Ellmers has to earn new votes.
Aldrich said that right now he sees the election as a toss-up between Ellmers and Holding. Also, he sees it as being one of the most expensive races in the state, if not the most expensive.
“It’s going to be entertaining,” he said. “I think before his decision (to run in District 2) he was vulnerable but now it really is close to 50-50. It’s going to be really competitive, it’s going to be one of the more expensive ones.”
Ruling put election in play
It should be noted that proposed new districts still require federal approval before being set in stone, suggesting further twists are possible.
The new map was drawn in response to a decision by a panel of three federal judges earlier this month. They found that those two state districts were unconstitutional and ordered new districts drawn up by Feb. 19.
The judges ruled that, in drawing the original District 1 and District 12, considerations of race played too large of a role. The state maintains that it was drawing the districts as majority-minority districts under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA).
The court ruled that majority-minority districts were not necessary under the Gingles test established in case law in relation to the VRA.
So in drawing the new maps the state established a set of criteria that did not include any racial data. State Democrats took contention with the total removal of race data from the equation, calling it “spitting in the faces of the judges.”