House Redistricting Chairman David Lewis says accusations that the GOP's maps target Democratic women are "absurd" and "misleading."
"The maps are fair and legal," Lewis said. "What you have are people who don't like the outcomes."
"Gender has never had anything to do with it," he added. "I don't think it has anything to do with the decisions of these folks to bow out."
Lewis said Democrats' protests of gender bias are part of a campaign strategy that's also underway in other states. And the NC Democratic Party has produced TV and online ads to relay that message. GOP voting maps hit Dem women hardest
Statistics show they may have a point.
House Democratic women were much more likely to be double-bunked than their male counterparts in either party. Out of the 22 women in the House Democratic caucus, 8 were double-bunked - 36%. That's compared to 23% of Democratic males, and 24% of GOP males. No GOP women were double-bunked.
In the Senate, the numbers were even more stark. The fifty-member chamber includes just 6 women, 3 Ds and 3 Rs. Two of the three Democrats were double-bunked -- Ellie Kinnaird (D-Orange) and Linda Garrou (D-Forsyth). That's 66%. In comparison, 25% of Republican men were double-bunked, 13% of Democratic men, and 33% of Republican women.
When you go beyond double-bunking to look at district changes, four other House women saw their districts become distinctly more Republican: Alice Bordsen (D-Alamance), Marian McLawhorn (D-Pitt), Edith Warren (D-Pitt), and Martha Alexander (D-Mecklenburg). Bordsen and Warren have already announced they won't seek re-election. The other two are said to be weighing their respective decisions carefully.
Adding up the 8 double-bunked women and the 4 above, that's 12 of 22 - 55% of the House Democratic women.
Asked about those numbers, Lewis said neither he nor anyone else has denied some lawmakers were targeted. But he says it was because of their politics, not their gender. Lewis on women and redistricting
"There are elected members of the General Assembly who happen to be women who have constantly advocated for failed policies that are out of step with what North Carolina needs," Lewis said.
"The only explanation they can come up with is to try to play some kind of victim role," he continued. "Frankly, it's offensive. And I think the people see through it." Watch the interview at right.
But many outspoken male Democrats in both chambers were not targeted for removal in the new maps.
"What, women are supposed to be silent?" Senator Ellie Kinnaird responded. "They're not supposed to speak for what they believe in, for their principles, for supporting children and other women?"
"I think it looks very, very suspicious," she said. "Probably unconscious, but it looked to me like there was a bias."