Thursday, July 21, 2011

Democrats -- and GOP candidate Ilario Pantano -- criticize NC redistricting plans.

Verne Strickland Blogmaster
Published: 07:58 AM, Thu Jul 21, 2011
By Paul Woolverton
The newest proposed revisions for North Carolina's congressional districts are drawing criticism from the Democrats and from a Republican congressional candidate.

"Whole counties, cities and towns are shredded by this approach," said N.C. Democratic Party Chairman David Parker in a statement.

The new maps wrongly divide up communities of interest in the Wilmington area, said a spokesman for 7th District Congressional candidate Ilario Pantano, who last year lost a close election against incumbent Democrat Mike McIntyre of Lumberton.

The maps are being redrawn to account for shifts and growth in North Carolina's population. The mapmaking also gives the political party in power - this time the Republicans - a chance to devise districts that favor its candidates.

The latest revision to the 7th District draws McIntyre's home out of the district. He and most of his Robeson County base would be put into the 8th. The new map also removes Fayetteville, Fort Bragg and most of the rest of Cumberland County from the 7th. It would keep the rural southeast corner.

The map adds Republican-friendly Johnston County, parts of which have become suburbs of Raleigh.
Raleigh suburbs have little to do with coastal southeast North Carolina, and vice versa, said Pantano spokesman Andy Yates.

A better-drawn map likely would put more Democrats into the 7th District, Pantano said in a statement, making it harder for a Republican to win, but "I know that truly selfless service means doing the right thing, even when it hurts you politically."

The new 7th District has also drawn a primary opponent for Pantano. Republican State Sen. David Rouzer of Benson announced on Wednesday that he will run for the 7th District seat. In his announcement, he said he has received numerous endorsements from prominent Republicans.

Even though McIntyre would no longer live in the 7th District, he still plans to run for re-election. Congressmen are not required to live in their districts. But he still thinks the maps are bad.

"They've taken southeastern North Carolina and sliced it and diced it into five separate congressional districts with no regard for its communities of interest, its people, and their needs," McIntyre's campaign committee said in a statement.

Democrats stand to lose the most under the Republican-drawn maps. Based on previous voting patterns, the new maps favor Republican candidates more than a previous proposal, said Jonathan Kappler of the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation, a political research organization in Raleigh.

Out of the 13 North Carolina congressional districts, Republicans would be favored to win 10 seats, he said, and Democrats three. The existing districts are held by seven Democrats and six Republicans.

Under the latest maps, Cumberland County would be split among the 7th, 2nd and 4th Districts. Under the old maps, it is split between the 7th, 2nd and 8th.

Democrat Larry Kissell of Montgomery County, serving the 8th, will have a hard time winning the new 8th even though it picks up Democrat-friendly Robeson County, Kappler said. The rest of the district favors Republican candidates, he said. Despite the challenges, Kissell this month announced his re-election campaign.

Two Republicans are already looking at challenging him. According to WRAL, state Rep. Justin Burr of Stanly County and state Rep. Jerry Dockham of Davidson County said they are seriously considering runs for the 8th District.

Ten years ago, when the Democrats controlled the legislature and the mapmaking, they tried to make the 8th District a Democrat-friendly territory to defeat Republican Robin Hayes. Kissell defeated Hayes in 2008.

The 2nd District, served by freshman Republican Renee Ellmers of Harnett County, changes significantly, shifting to new territory to the west to Randolph County, home of the North Carolina Zoo.

It takes up much of Cumberland County and Fayetteville, plus all of Republican-friendly Moore County.
Overall, it's more solidly Republican, Kappler said.

"She's the Republican that's most helped by the congressional redistricting, which is important for her because she won in a great Republican year," Kappler said.

Fayetteville would also be added to a new 4th District that includes parts of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. Fayetteville native Brad Miller, a Democrat currently serving the 13th District, lives in Raleigh in the new 4th District. The 4th is served by Democrat David Price of Chapel Hill.

Staff writer Paul Woolverton can be reached at woolvertonp@fayobserver.com or (910) 486-3512.