Tuesday, May 17, 2011


'It's a dream map for Republicans -- a 9-4 map, and it's modeled after constitutional guidelines.'

By Verne Strickland
USA DOT COM Blogmaster
May 17, 2011

“This just seems like a slam dunk for Ilario,” said a veteran North Carolina political operative after seeing a new redistricting map which is expected to survive largely intact and be voted into law by the N.C. General Assembly in a few weeks.

Governor Bev Perdue has no veto power in this exercise, and will wield nothing more than token ricochet influence on a process which will shape the destinies of North Carolina politics and politicians for the next ten years. 

The political observer and strategist we interviewed for this feature agreed to an exclusive in-depth discussion for USA DOT COM on the ramifications of redistricting, with the proviso that he would remain anonymous.

Many of his comments, which are personal and revealing, are quoted verbatim in order to preserve their exact meaning and intent. They show clearly that the first look at the new draft map gives Pantano supporters reason for considerable optimism – perhaps even assurance of victory – in the upcoming 2012 GOP primary, as well as the fall general elections.

Our source  asserted that the North Carolina map, based on the 2010 U.S. Census, not only pumps excitement into the Pantano candidacy, but also augers well for Republican congressional candidates throughout the State. 

“It’s a  great map for Republicans,” he commented. “The new Eighth District becomes one of the most solid Republican Districts in the State. There’s a ton of good political candidates that live in that district, and there’s no way Larry Kissell would go back in under that map. 

"Shuler would have a very hard time running as a Republican  in the new Eleventh District. I see no way Shuler could beat Patrick McHenry. They are both friends, and the Eleventh as drawn is going to be heavily Republican.”

Following is a major portion of the commentary by our source, focusing in particular on the evolving relationship between Ilario Pantano and eight-term incumbent Democrat Mike McIntyre, and the dramatic reversal in their respective political fortunes.

It looks like people who voted for Pantano will get Pantano, and people who voted for McIntyre will get McIntyre

McIntyre would be foolish to run in the new Thirteenth -- he'd be creamed -- he would have no base of support there. With only a very few exceptions all of McIntyre's strong areas like Robeson, Columbus, Bladen, and Downtown Wilmington, would remain in the Seventh.
And even there, McIntyre faces a challenge from a strong minority candidate and there is the potential that Kissell could choose to run in the Seventh instead of the Eighth.
The parts of Pender New Hanover and Brunswick that would be in the new Thirteenth voted for Pantano by an overwhelming margin

Pantano beat McIntyre head to head by a 62 to 38 margin in the portion of Sampson County that was in the Seventh and that will be in the new Thirteenth.

Onslow, of course, is the home of Camp Lejeune, where Pantano was stationed as an 18-year-old Marine, when he fought in the First Gulf War. And then he was stationed there in the Second Gulf War when he fought in Iraq. Ilario is revered and loved by local veterans’ organizations and the community. From diners to gun shows, everyone has come to know Pantano in a personal way. His story was covered extensively in the Jacksonville Daily News and their honest reportage means that the folks in Jacksonville know that Pantano is the real thing.


In fact Pantano's Brand is so strong in the Onslow county area that he was asked to cut a commercial for Republican Walter Jones who faced a Primary fight in 2006.  The ad, which can be viewed here speaks to the fact that Congressman Jones is a fierce defender of the "boots on the ground" and since Pantano was one of those boots he support Walter Jones.

Pantano, because of his military ties, is very strong in Fayetteville and Cumberland...Pantano and McIntyre split the vote in the portion of Cumberland that was in the Seventh. The portion of Cumberland that is in the Thirteenth will be more Republican and more favorable to Pantano than the area of the county that was in the Seventh in 2010.

The portions of Johnston and Wayne County that will be in the new Thirteenth should be favorable to Pantano as well, as they are very similar to the portion of Sampson that was in the old Seventh and will be in the new Thirteenth.  They are conservative, mostly rural, major agricultural areas with a heavy emphasis on hog farming.  And with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Wayne County also has a strong military presence. 

It would be very difficult for someone to defeat Pantano in a primary in the new Thirteenth, as he is very strong in the bulk of the areas that would be in the new district. He would have a tremendous advantage in positive name ID with Republican primary voters in the new district, both because of the 2010 race and because of his sterling reputation in Onslow County.

The bottom line is more than a majority of likely voters in a 2012 Republican primary in the new 13th will have already voted for Pantano twice (in the 2010 primary and general election), and Pantano has a strong appeal to rock-ribbed Republicans and Tea Party members who will be most of the people voting in a 2012 Republican primary.
This is a 'dream map' -- a 9-4 map -- and its modeled after Constitutional guidelines.
It does what we’ve said all along in North Carolina – if you follow federal law and don’t illegally gerrymander, you’ll have nine Republican congressmen. 

The following information on redistricting is provided by the official North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) Website:

Redistricting plans, like other legislation, are passed by the General Assembly in bills. The bills are introduced and go through committees before they are considered on the House and Senate floors. To handle the bills, leaders of the House and Senate have usually named special redistricting committees that hold public hearings to receive comment from the citizens. From decade to decade, those committees have taken different forms. Once both houses of the General Assembly ratify a redistricting bill, that bill, unlike most bills, is not subject to the Governor's veto. The bill cannot be implemented, however, until it has received approval ("preclearance," as it is called) under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Typically, the US Justice Department reviews the bill to determine whether, in the 40 counties covered by Section 5 of the Act, there has been any worsening of the position of minorities. Alternatively, the State may gain preclearance through a lawsuit brought in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Once a plan is enacted by the General Assembly and approved under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, it remains in effect until the next federal census.
As they redraw districts, legislators will be urged by various people and groups to consider additional redistricting principles: "Keep communities in the same district." "Retain the cores of incumbents' prior districts." "Increase or reduce the strength of one or the other political parties." Redistricting is a complex and political process, and all of these motives are legitimate and traditional redistricting considerations. Ultimately, the voters, through their elected representatives, control the process. 

POSTSCRIPT by Verne Strickland:

For a century, Democrats in North Carolina have held sway in the General Assembly, and (my words) they have taken pains to tweak Republican noses mercilessly, giving no respite or quarter. Another consultant we interviewed -- a historian and scholar of the NC political scene -- pointed out that, if this harsh treatment has been forgiven, it has dang sure not been forgotten. His comments on the subject:

THE BRAD MILLER STORY: Our source's comments on the esteemed gentleman from North Carolina:

 Brad Miller made himself chairman of redistricting ten years ago, and drew his own congressional district. It seems fitting that he’s now being drawn out as part of a fair redistricting process.

I’ve been told that was very intentional, because he has rubbed people the wrong way. He was actually quoted, I believe, when he told the Raleigh N&O that he was going to draw a congressional district for himself. And he went out and did it. Some have reportedly since said that they wouldn’t be hurt at all if Brad Miller was just made to go away. And they went out and did it.

Ralph Bradley "Brad" Miller is a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing North Carolina's 13th District (map) since 2002.

Here is a link to an article by Pat Gannon of the Star News on NC redistricting: