"I've been at this a long time," said Congressman G.K. Butterfield today. "Very little surprises me."
But today's updated version of the GOP's proposed congressional maps apparently made that list.
"I was expecting some modifications, but this is beyond what I expected," Butterfield said about the new maps.
In the first version of the proposed maps released July 1, Butterfield's 1st congressional district would have been extended into downtown Raleigh. But it would have lost five Voting Rights Act counties - Washington, Beaufort, Gates, Craven, and Wayne - as well as a sixth, Jones, that's traditionally been included in his district.
Butterfield objected, saying putting those counties into the 3rd District of Republican Walter Jones, as was proposed, would have marginalized African American voters in those counties.
"Clearly, it was a violation of Section 5," Butterfield said, referring to the part of the VRA that forbids map changes which lessen minority voters' political clout. "I think the lawyers figured it out."
In a statement today, Redistricting chairs Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, and Rep, David Lewis, R-Harnett, said they made the changes in the second draft in accordance with Butterfield's wishes.
But Butterfield said he was even more surprised by today's map than he was by the first draft. The latest plan puts the six counties back, but removes his district from Wake County completely, taking it all the way over to Durham instead.
Butterfield said he figured GOP lawmakers would just add back the eastern counties while subtracting a corresponding number of voters from Wake County. "I didn't expect to be put into Durham," he said. "That's the heart of David Price's district, and he's represented them well."
While he's pleased to have the VRA counties back in his district, Butterfield isn't ready to sign off on the latest plan. "I try to look at the totality of the map. And I'm not happy with the totality," he said.
Under the latest version of the map, Republicans would have an edge in 10 of the states' 13 congressional districts. "We're not a ten-seat Republican state. We're a divided state," Butterfield said. "Obama won North Carolina in 2008. We're not a solid red state."
He also took issue with the double-bunking of two pairs of Democratic incumbents - Miller and Price in the new 4th District, and McIntyre and Kissell in the new 8th. "That's not necessary," he said. "It's excessive."
Butterfield expects the fight over the congressional maps will end up in court. "We've got a long, long way to go," he said. "I welcome the opportunity to serve Durham. If these maps hold, I'm ready for the challenge. I'm ready to deal with it either way."