Congressional candidates bemused, irked by altered map

Posted February 18, 2016

Republican lawmakers have proposed a reconfiguration of North Carolina's 13 U.S. House districts after federal judges ruled two were unconstitutionally drawn based on race.

— John McNeil and Ron Sanyal have been preparing to face each other in the Democratic primary in the 13th Congressional District in a few weeks. Now, the primary has been pushed back, and neither is certain he will be running at all when voters cast their ballots.

The reconfigured congressional map approved Thursday by the state Senate shifts the 13th District from Wake County and points east about 100 miles to the west, to Greensboro west to Iredell County.

"The 13th has moved a wee bit," McNeil said with a laugh. "It's a shame this is happening in the midst of the primary season."

The General Assembly is revamping the congressional map after federal judges ruled two weeks ago that the Republican majority relied too much on the race of voters five years ago when it drew the boundaries of the 1st Congressional District and the 12th Congressional District.

In redrawing the maps, relying primarily on the results of recent elections to create GOP-leaning districts for 10 of North Carolina's 13 U.S. House members, the boundaries of the majority of the districts changed.

Mark Otto, who is challenging Republican 7th District Congressman David Rouzer, said the new lines leave him about 3 miles outside the district.

"What a fiasco," Otto said in a statement, adding that he was frustrated that state lawmakers didn't inform him about his shift into the 2nd Congressional District before they unveiled their proposed map on Wednesday.

"I did not receive a phone call, email, letter, nothing," he said. "You would think it would be a common courtesy to let both the incumbents and their challengers know they would be placed in a different district."

Although congressional candidates aren't required to live in the district they represent, it's usually easier to get elected by voters from your community than by voters who view someone as an outsider.

Otto could challenge Republican 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers instead. The altered landscape of her district moved two of her primary opponents, Jim Duncan of Chatham County and Kay Daly of Moore County, into the 6th District and 8th District, respectively.

Messages left with Duncan's and Daly's campaigns weren't returned Thursday.

"I don't know which district I belong to," Sanyal said. "This is a real quagmire."

The Raleigh pharmaceutical consultant and soccer promoter said he "would be lost" if he had to run in the new 13th District instead of one based in the Triangle. Still, he said he plans to keep his options open and see what the final map looks like.

"My wife asked if we could get our money back," Sanyal said of his candidate filing fee. "I told her it's unlikely, but I think she has plans for it already."

McNeil, a Raleigh attorney, said he hasn't figured out if he lives in the 2nd District or the 4th District under the new map, saying he wouldn't challenge Democratic 4th District Congressman David Price but might consider jumping into a 2nd District race.

"This is causing a lot of stress," he said.

That may be the case for Republican 13th District Congressman George Holding as well. With his district moved from under him, he now is in the Democratic-leaning 4th District. His campaign and his Raleigh office didn't return messages Thursday.


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