Editorial: Legislative overreach on HB2, redistricting, cost key statewide GOP candidates
Posted November 11, 2016
A CBC Editorial: Friday, Nov.11, 2016; Editorial# 8080
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
North Carolina voters sent a very clear message to the GOP leaders in state government – one they ignore at their own peril:
House Bill 2 is a big mistake and rigging elections with extreme gerrymandering or "judicial retention votes" is wrong.
In the statewide races where HB2 was front-and-center – Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s bid for re-election and GOP state Sen. Buck Newton’s bid to become attorney general – the results defied the wave sweeping other Republicans to victory. In legislative races, Wake County Republicans Marilyn Avila and Gary Pendleton were two of the few incumbents defeated. HB2 was a key issue in their campaigns.
Incumbent state Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmonds, despite the deep pockets of the Chamber of Commerce and other groups aiding his campaign, was crushed by lesser-known state Superior Court Judge Mike Morgan. In that contest, Edmond’s role in upholding the extreme gerrymandering of the state’s congressional districts, along with the legislature's attempt to end direct election of justices and switch to "retention" votes, were the central issues.
Edmonds wrote the state court’s majority opinion upholding the redistricting plan, which was later declared unconstitutional by the federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The federal court said the law Edmonds approved targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
Edmonds’s defeat – by an 8-point margin -- cost the Republicans a much-prized majority on the state Supreme Court.
In redistricting and social legislation, the GOP leadership has often sought to pit the state’s more urbanized counties against rural ones. It is a formula that might work in the petty horse-trading in the legislature but, as McCrory, Newton, Avila, Pendleton and Edmonds now know from experience, it is a formula for defeat.
In the face of the massive GOP tide on Tuesday, Democrats Roy Cooper and Josh Stein, were the top vote-getters, largely by capturing overwhelming support in the state’s nine largest counties and three others that are home to major state university campuses.
It is no accident that these counties bore the brunt of the economic wrath following the passage of HB2. North Carolina’s brand was trashed. They lost new jobs, business expansions and major sporting and entertainment events. HB2 costs these communities hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.
As legislators prepare their priorities for the 2017 legislative session, they should listen very carefully to the very loud and very clear message the voters sent them on Tuesday.
Repeal HB2 and then adopt a non-partisan system for creating legislative and congressional representative districts. That’s how we can start to get North Carolina back on track.