Raleigh, N.C. — Rep. Joe John, D-Wake, says he wants lawmakers to establish a nonpartisan redistricting commission to draw North Carolina’s congressional and legislative districts in this session.
The freshman representative, who took office in January after more than 40 years of public service, spent much of his campaign supporting nonpartisan redistricting, citing a study in which a panel of 10 retired North Carolina judges created an unofficial map of congressional districts for the state.
"Voters would be able to select their representatives, instead of the present system where it seems legislators are selecting their voters," John said.
After more than three decades practicing law that ended with a spot on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, John held leadership roles within the Division of Motor Vehicles and eventually led the State Crime Lab for four years, a tenure that ended in 2014.
John said he realized he could do well as a legislator during his experience lobbying the General Assembly for resources for the lab.
"I realized sort of gradually that this is something I could do and maybe I would be in a position to make a real contribution," John said.
Why did you run?
"I've spent nearly 25 years as a North Carolina judge, where my responsibility was to enforce laws, and in the executive branch, I was deputy commissioner of the DMV and director of the State Crime Lab, where my responsibility was to implement laws passed by the General Assembly. The opportunity came up this past year. I was free to run and saw the opportunity to continue to serve and to bring my previous experience to bear on the process of enacting laws."
What’s surprised you most since taking office?
"I can't say that I've been surprised for a number of reasons, particularly because of the time I spent in the General Assembly as the director of the crime laboratory. I knew what I was getting into."
If you were given the choice of one statewide law to get passed this session, what would it be and why?
"The establishment of a truly independent, impartial, nonpartisan redistricting commission to draw North Carolina's congressional and legislative districts. The passage of legislation creating the commission and establishment of fairly drawn districts would resolve many of the divisive issues we have facing North Carolina."
What’s the best piece of advice you've gotten for navigating the General Assembly and who gave it to you?
"I don’t know if it necessarily came in a specific form of advice by anyone in particular, but my approach has been to come in here with an open mind and open heart, if you will, and observe, learn and do what I did for 25 years as a judge. That is, listen and try to do the very best I can and make the very best decisions I can in trying to do the people’s work."