NC Democrats’ parity in Congress delegation may be fleeting

Nov 18, 2022, 9:40 PM | Updated: Nov 19, 2022, 11:47 am
Rep.-elect Wiley Nickel, D-N.C., speaks with reporters after newly-elected members of the House of ...

Rep.-elect Wiley Nickel, D-N.C., speaks with reporters after newly-elected members of the House of Representatives attended an orientation program, in Washington, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

(AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

              Rep.-elect Jeff Jackson, D-N.C., arrives for New Member Orientation check-in and program registration at the Hyatt Regency, in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
            
              North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, left, speaks while Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, listens during a post-election news conference at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday, Nov. 9. 2022. Republicans made seat gains in both the House and Senate on Election Day, with Senate Republicans now holding a veto-proof majority. But Moore said House Republicans fell one seat short of a similar veto-proof threshold (AP Photo/Gary D. Robertson)
            
              Rep.-elect Wiley Nickel, D-N.C., speaks with reporters after newly-elected members of the House of Representatives attended an orientation program, in Washington, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Democrats celebrated winning what was billed as North Carolina’s lone toss-up race for the U.S. House this month, as state Sen. Wiley Nickel’s narrow victory over Republican Bo Hines in the 13th Congressional District helped weaken any national GOP midterm wave.

Nickel’s win creates a 7-7 split in the state’s delegation, marking the best showing for state Democrats after a decade of trailing the GOP in an otherwise closely divided state. Trial judges drew the latest district boundaries after redistricting litigation successfully blocked maps passed by the Republican-controlled legislature that could have whittled Democrats down to four seats.

“We’re a 50-50 state — we should have a 7-to-7 delegation,” Nickel told The Associated Press this week during a break in his congressional orientation in Washington. “When we have fair maps, we get fair results that reflect the choice of the voters.”

But there’s a good chance Nickel’s Raleigh-area district and others will be dramatically altered for the 2024 elections, returning the advantage to Republicans.

A confluence of events opens the door for General Assembly Republicans to pass their preferred congressional map in 2023 and have it used the following year. A new GOP majority on the state Supreme Court likely will be more skeptical of legal challenges that allege excessive partisanship.

“Seven-seven does not reflect the will of the voters in North Carolina,” House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters the day after the election. “So it should be something different. I don’t know what that is. But at the end of the day … let’s trust the voters of this state.”

Republicans hold eight of the state’s 13 U.S. House districts through the year’s end. Population growth gave North Carolina a 14th seat with the November election.

GOP legislators vehemently opposed a split opinion by the state Supreme Court last winter that struck down a more favorable map for their party by declaring the state constitution prohibited partisan gerrymandering of boundaries.

State law required the judge-drawn map be used only for this year’s races. Republicans will continue to have majorities in the state House and Senate next year comfortable enough to pass their favored map. Redistricting plans are not subject to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto stamp.

Most importantly, Republicans will have a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court come January with victories by Trey Allen and Richard Dietz for seats currently held by registered Democrats.

The current 4-3 Democratic majority ruled that congressional and legislative maps approved by the General Assembly in November 2021 unlawfully gave Republicans outsized favoritism compared with Democrats. The three Republican justices who dissented wrote that the constitution doesn’t expressly bar or limit partisan advantage in mapmaking.

The arrival of two more GOP justices makes it more likely — but not assured — that the court would uphold a future congressional map by the legislature while rejecting last year’s landmark ruling that defined illegal partisan gerrymandering.

Senate leader Phil Berger said he expected the state would now move away from what he called the “judicial gerrymander” to “what would be, I think, a different drawing of the congressional maps.”

It’s too soon to say what the next congressional lines will look like. Plans approved by the legislature but never implemented would have positioned Republicans to win 10 of the state’s 14 congressional seats.

Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College in Salisbury, said Nickel would be a likely target for Republican lawmakers to place in a more GOP-friendly district.

Democratic state Sen. Jeff Jackson, who won the newly created 14th District seat covering portions of Mecklenburg and Gaston counties, and 6th District Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning of Greensboro, who won her third term, are also vulnerable, Bitzer said.

It’s possible the state Supreme Court shift could be moot. Litigation involving the congressional map is before the U.S. Supreme Court and could result in state courts losing the ability to judge laws involving federal elections, including seat boundaries. Oral arguments are scheduled for next month in the case, in which lawyers for Berger and Moore argue the U.S. Constitution delegates “the Times, Places and Manner” of congressional elections solely to state legislatures.

“Even if they’re unsuccessful in the U.S. Supreme Court, they now have a state Supreme Court that is most likely to be deferential to whatever the legislature comes up with, excusing any precedent” reached by the state justices, Bitzer said.

An analysis by Bitzer of federal statewide contests in North Carolina since 2008 show Republican candidates winning nearly 51% of the cumulative votes compared with 47% for Democrats. But the idea that a political party should be assured of seats aligned with their percentage support at the ballot box over time was shunned by authors of the state Supreme Court’s prevailing and dissenting opinions last February.

Nickel said he’s not worrying himself about what a future map looks like.

“We’ve got a huge opportunity to make some real bipartisan accomplishments in the next Congress, so that’s really the focus,” Nickel said. “At some point, they will draw new maps, but I’m optimistic that when that happens, we’ll have a seat we can run in.”

___

Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

The Righting deciphers conservative media for outsiders

NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly six years into monitoring the content of conservative media outlets for his website and newsletter The Righting, Howard Polskin hasn’t lost the capacity for surprise. Case in point: when Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential candidacy, and many of his long-time media allies let fly with anger and insults. Two […]
1 day ago
This photo shows Charles Graves dressed as Santa Claus in Austin, Texas on on Sept. 3, 2022. Graves...
Associated Press

Santa’s back in town with inflation, inclusion on his mind

NEW YORK (AP) — Don’t look for plastic partitions or faraway benches when visiting Santa Claus this year. The jolly old elf is back, pre-pandemic style, and he’s got some pressing issues on his mind. Santa booker HireSanta.com has logged a 30% increase in demand this Christmas season over last year, after losing about 15% […]
1 day ago
FILE - Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and wife Gisele arrive to vote in Braddock, Pa, Tuesday...
Associated Press

Pennsylvania campaign wildcard Fetterman turns to governing

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — When John Fetterman goes to Washington in January as one of the Senate’s new members, he’ll bring along an irreverent style from Pennsylvania that extends from his own personal dress code — super casual — to hanging marijuana flags outside his current office in the state Capitol. Pennsylvania’s unique lieutenant governor, […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

China vows more ‘friendly consensus’ amid Vatican complaints

BEIJING (AP) — Beijing and the Vatican are once again tangling over the prickly issue of appointing Chinese bishops. After complaints from the Vatican that Beijing was violating a 2018 interim accord, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Monday said the country is willing to expand the “friendly consensus” achieved with the Vatican over […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

This Week: Consumer confidence, consumer spending, jobs data

A look at some of the key business events and economic indicators upcoming this week: CONFIDENCE CHECK The Conference Board delivers its latest index of U.S. consumer confidence Tuesday. Economists expect the reading fell in November to 98. That would follow a reading of 102.5 in October. A reading of 90 or better reflects a […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Denmark: Nigerian pirate found guilty but not imprisoned

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A 31-year-old Nigerian man who was seriously injured during a gunfight last year with Danish troops on an anti-piracy mission off West Africa was Monday found guilty of endangering others by a Danish court. However, the court ruled that the man, had his leg amputated, should be not be jailed because […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
NC Democrats’ parity in Congress delegation may be fleeting