With the dust finally settled on our national elections with the runoff in Louisiana, it is time two look forward to a new US Congress and State General Assembly.
This past election saw Republicans maintain their super majorities in both houses of the State Legislature. They also added a Representative in the state’s Congressional House delegation in addition to winning a second US Senate seat. That's a significant change from just a few short years ago. In fact, North Carolina has seen one of the more dramatic changes of any state in the country as far as the party of our elected officials with lawmaking authority is concerned. With that in mind, it’s worth taking a look at how we got here.
It ultimately comes back to a national effort aimed at state-level legislative politics.
Most people who follow politics are now familiar with the political map being shown on any news show discussing the US House of Representatives – the one that shows a sea of red Republican seats with the smaller number of blue Democratic seats centered along the coasts and around a few urban centers.
That map is no accident. It is the result of a concerted effort by Republicans over the past several years – an effort called REDMAP or the REDisticting MAjority Project.
REDMAP originated with the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) after the 2008 elections in preparation for the 2010 Census, and its subsequent constitutionally required redistricting. The goal was to gain control of more state legislatures and influence the redistricting process across the country to draw more Republican-friendly districts at the State and Congressional levels.
The REDMAP effort was greatly enhanced by th.e Obamacare fueled Tea Party wave that swept the country during the 2010 election season. The end result for North Carolina was the first Republican controlled Legislature in 140 years. Redistricting ensued, and the past two Federal and State election cycles have occurred under the new districts.
The results? The state’s Congressional delegation has moved from 8 – 5 favoring
the Democrats going into the 2010 elections to 10 – 3 favoring the Republicans after the 2014 cycle. Over these same cycles, Republicans have secured election-tested, veto-proof super majorities in both houses of the Legislature.
For its intended purpose, REDMAP cannot be considered anything but an unmitigated success for the GOP here in North Carolina.
So, how has this impacted voters choices here in North Mecklenburg? Here, the results have been more mixed.
On the Congressional level, the NC 9th has the dubious distinction of being one of 77 House districts nationwide (and the only one in North Carolina) where one party ran unopposed in 2014. Between the heavy Republican slant of the district, and Congressman Robert Pittenger’s proven willingness to spend whatever it takes to win an election, the odds of winning were too long for any challenger to step into the fray.
At the State level however, things remain fairly competitive. North Mecklenburg has parts of two NC House Districts and one NC Senate district. While Senator Jeff Tarte (R) of Cornelius has the NC Senate 41 district fairly well wrapped up, on the House side things are much tighter. Those seats are NC House 92 held by Rep Charles Jeter (R) of Huntersville and NC House 98 to be held by newly elected Rep John Bradford (R) of Cornelius.
According to the latest Civitas Institute rankings of partisanship in legislative districts, NC-92 was the only district in the state won by a Republican in a Democratic leaning district. The district has a 2012 Civitas Partisan Index (CPI) rating of D+1. Jeter won the district this year with 52.5% of the vote – an increase over his margin of victory in 2012 at 51.4%.
In NC House 98, Bradford did win Speaker Thom Tillis’s old seat by a fairly wide margin – gaining 55% of the vote. That slightly outpaced the CVI rating for this district of R+9. However, that high CVI rating should not be take as an indication this district is the result of gerrymandering. It is actually down from the 2011 rating of R+11.
In fact all of the districts representing North Mecklenburg have seen decreases in the Republican-leaning nature of their districts. Another analysis done by Professor Michael Bitzer of Catawba College shows more Mecklenburg precincts outside of Ccarlotte becoming more “blue” or at least less "red" in recent years.
As an example, the precinct around Davidson College used to be the only blue precinct in the whole North Mecklenburg area. Between 2008 and 2012, other blue precincts joined NC-98 on its southern edge in North Charlotte. Thus, its reduced CVI rating.
So, what does all this mean to you the voter?
It means that local voters should continue to hold their elected representatives accountable. Particularly, at the State Legislative level they still have incentive to listen.
As the Mecklenburg electorate continues to change, their jobs in Raleigh will depend on it.
This post originally appeared in last week's Herald Weekly