Republicans who control the North Carolina legislature on Wednesday approved a new congressional map that could help their party pick up at least three US House seats in next year’s elections.
The map, approved a week after it was first unveiled, could help Republicans retain – or potentially grow – their majority in the chamber where they have a slender advantage. The recent convulsions over the selection of the next House speaker in Washington underscore the perils of the party’s razor-thin majority.
The North Carolina House approved a plan that favors Republicans in 10 of the state’s 14 House seats. Three seats favor Democrats, and one – now held by Democratic Rep. Don Davis in a rural northeastern reach of the state – would become friendlier turf for Republicans but remain competitive for both parties. The state Senate had approved the new lines a day earlier.
Currently, the state’s congressional delegation is split 7-7 between the political parties, under temporary lines imposed by a court that applied only to the 2022 election. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, does not have veto power over redistricting legislation.
The redistricting process in North Carolina, where Republicans hold supermajorities in the state legislature, was expected to produce big gains for the GOP. It’s one of nearly a dozen states where legal and political skirmishes over congressional map-drawing have raged as each party jockeys for an edge ahead of the 2024 election.
The GOP gains in the Tar Heel state could help offset potential Democratic wins in redistricting litigation now pending in several other states across the South.
The North Carolina Democrats whose seats are directly endangered by the new plan are Reps. Jeff Jackson, who currently represents a Charlotte-area district; Wiley Nickel, who holds a Raleigh-area seat; and Kathy Manning, who represents Greensboro and other parts of north-central North Carolina.
Jackson, a first-term congressman known for his straight-to-camera viral TikTok videos, declared on social media that the proposed congressional lines, which became public last week, meant that “I’m probably toast in Congress.” On Thursday, he announced he was jumping into the race for state attorney general.
State lawmakers overseeing redistricting released two potential maps last week, one of which would have knocked off a fourth Democrat because it would have drawn two of the state’s three Black House lawmakers – Davis and Rep. Valerie Foushee – into the same district. That version did not advance.
State-level gains in the 2022 midterm elections gave the GOP new influence over redistricting in this swing state.
Last year, Republicans flipped North Carolina’s Supreme Court, whose members are chosen in partisan elections. The court’s new GOP majority earlier this year tossed out a 2022 ruling by the then-Democratic-leaning court against partisan gerrymandering. The map that had been created after the Democratic-led high court’s ruling resulted in the current even split in the state’s House delegation.
Democrats have argued that the congressional lines, along with new state legislative maps, seek to unfairly cement Republican power ahead of next year’s consequential state and national elections.
North Carolina is more evenly divided politically than the new map indicates – with the state’s voters backing Donald Trump over Joe Biden by just 1 point in the 2020 presidential election.
Former US Attorney General Eric Holder, who leads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said Wednesday following the state legislature’s actions that North Carolina “is now one (of) the most egregiously gerrymandered states in the country.”
During floor debate Wednesday on the congressional lines, Republicans insisted that their map was fair – even if it benefits their party.
“There’s no doubt that the congressional map that is before you today has a lean towards Republicans,” said GOP state Rep. Destin Hall, one of the lawmakers who oversaw the redistricting process. But he insisted that “it doesn’t preordain any type of outcome.”
And some Democrats, including Nickel, indicated that legal action challenging the congressional map could follow.
Nickel said in a statement after the legislature vote that he would not announce a reelection bid “in any of these gerrymandered districts” and would only make a decision about seeking elective office “once the courts have spoken.”
This story has been updated with additional information.
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