Winners and losers: Who benefits from GOP's redrawn congressional map

If the congressional map state lawmakers approved Thursday is enacted, Democrats would likely see a slight boost in 2022 compared to the map the Republican-controlled legislature passed in November.

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Paul Specht
Bryan Anderson, WRAL statehouse reporters

Redrawn congressional districts approved last week by North Carolina legislators could put new candidates on the map and push others off of it.

State legislators on Thursday approved new legislative and congressional maps that reshape voting lines in ways that could improve or muddy the prospects of politicians around the state. The GOP-controlled General Assembly redrew the lines in response to an order from the state Supreme Court, which ruled that maps enacted last year were unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders designed to give Republicans an unfair advantage.

Broadly speaking, the redrawn congressional districts give Democrats a chance of winning more seats than the map approved last year. Under the struck-down map, Republicans would have likely won 10 or 11 of North Carolina’s 14 seats. Under the redrawn map, Democrats are likely to win at least three seats and could be competitive in seven.

However, political experts believe President Biden’s unpopularity could dampen the Democrats’ odds of even matching the number of seats they currently hold. The 2020 election gave Republicans their current 8-5 congressional advantage over Democrats in North Carolina. And Democrats have long complained that the lopsided representation isn’t fair in a state that’s nearly evenly divided politically.

Republicans, meanwhile, deny the notion that their wins are the result of gerrymandering. They point out that they have a right to control mapmaking. After all, state law grants redistricting responsibilities to the legislature, where the GOP holds a majority. And they argue their wins reflect the state’s current political geography—where Democratic voters are concentrated around the urban areas and Republican voters are more strewn across the state.

For incumbents, the redistricting process can bring anxiety. They hope legislators keep their district as familiar as possible, and maybe even tilt the playing field in favor of their political party. But that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes they’re placed in more competitive districts or worse—drawn into the same district as another incumbent. When that happens, they have to decide whether to run in a competitive primary or drop out.

For aspiring Congress members, the redistricting process can generate new opportunities. Legislators sometimes draw new districts that are home to no incumbents at all. In the next few days, a three-judge panel will decide whether the redrawn maps can be used in this year’s midterm elections. The judges have until noon Wednesday to approve the plan. If they do approve it, they’ll close the window of opportunity for some and open it for others.

If the GOP’s maps aren’t accepted, the lines could change dramatically. The judges could go with proposals put forward Friday by the voting rights groups that successfully challenged Republicans’ November congressional and legislative maps. The court could also draft its own maps with the assistance of three appointed redistricting experts, known as special masters.

But for now, the onus is on the GOP. If the party’s maps prevail, here’s who could benefit and who could lose out:

Better off

Congresswoman Kathy Manning, representing North Carolina's sixth district
Kathy Manning. The Greensboro Democrat, who won her seat easily in 2020, was placed in a Republican-leaning district with incumbent Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx in the Republicans’ first map. The redraw puts Manning in the 6th Congressional District, which is less favorable than her 2020 district but more favorable than the one legislators drew for her last year. Foxx is better off now too. The new map places her in a northwestern district that’s more compact, doesn’t include any other incumbents, and offers Republicans an advantage.
House Speaker Tim Moore
Tim Moore. The GOP’s redrawn map creates an opportunity for state House Speaker Tim Moore, a Cleveland County Republican, to run in the new 14th district. For years, political insiders have speculated that Moore might run for higher office. Moore declined to run under the previous maps after U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn decided to run in the district most suitable for Moore. Last week, Moore issued a statement suggesting he might run in the new 14th, which includes Moore’s legislative constituents and is considered a competitive district. It’s home to incumbent Republican Rep. Dan Bishop. But Bishop lives on the eastern edge of the district, and has said he plans on seeking reelection in the adjacent 9th district.
Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, a conservative Republican running for a U.S. Senate seat representing the state, told the crowd to keep up the fight.
Mark Walker. Former Congressman Mark Walker is currently running for U.S. Senate. But the GOP primary has increasingly become a two-man race between Rep. Ted Budd and former Gov. Pat McCrory. The redrawn map creates a new 6th Congressional District that includes part of Guilford County, offering Walker a potential landing spot if he wants out of the Senate race. The district, a political toss-up, is already attracting other candidates. Political newcomer Bo Hines and former U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers announced their intentions to run in the 6th. It includes Guilford County, so Walker may have an advantage in some parts of the district if he decides to run there.

Worse off

Congressman Madison Cawthorn
Madison Cawthorn. The nation’s youngest congressman made headlines last year when he announced plans to run for reelection in a district that was more Republican-friendly than his own. The redrawn map could entice him to instead run in his far-western district.

Under the redrawn map, his home 11th District leans Republican. But it’s not as safe of a district as the one he initially sought. And he’d have to challenge one of his Congressional colleagues if he wants to jump to a safer Republican seat nearby.

Republican 7th District Congressman David Rouzer
David Rouzer. U.S. Rep. David Rouzer, who has served in Congress since 2015, went from having a safe Republican district to one that’s now considered to be more competitive. The New Hanover County Republican lives in the proposed 7th district, which encompasses the Fayetteville and Wilmington metro areas. Rouzer could choose to run in the 13th district, a new district just north of his that’s slightly more favorable to Republicans. However, other Republicans may also be eyeing that district because it has no incumbent.
Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland
John Szoka. State Rep. John Szoka, a Cumberland County Republican, was considered the frontrunner in the GOP primary in the former 4th district. It was mostly rural and leaned Republican. Cumberland County is now part of the 7th district, a competitive district that’s home to Rouzer. Szoka was one of only two Republicans to oppose the maps in the state House vote Thursday. Szoka could run in the 13th District. But he’s likely not the only Republican interested in that area.


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