No, not the one with the blowhard billionaire, the democratic socialist, or the former Secretary of State being investigated by the FBI. No, not that one.
Instead it’s the rescheduled primaries for North Carolina’s delegation to the United States Congress.
You may be asking yourself “didn’t we just have the primaries?” The answer to that questions is “yes” – with a caveat. We did just have our primary elections for all the races except for the ones for the US Congress.
With the national controversy around North Carolina’s HB2 sucking up all the political oxygen recently, readers may have forgotten the previous political crisis du jour. That was back in February when Federal Courts invalidated two North Carolina Congressional districts as illegal racial gerrymanders. A three judge panel said NC-1 and NC-12 inappropriately used race to influence the drawing of these districts using a strategy called “packing” whereby these districts were drawn in such a way at to include as many minority voters as possible and thus making it easier for Republicans to win more of the other districts.
Forced to quickly redraw the districts, the General Assembly did something unexpected. Rather than just tweak districts to appease the courts, they redrew all 13 districts – many of them in fairly radical fashion. While the new districts are almost as controversial as the old ones due to their partisan breakdown, they will be used in the upcoming election. No area of the state has been more impacted by these redrawn districts than the Lake Norman region.
Prior to redrawing the boundaries Lake Norman area voters in Mecklenburg and Iredell counties pretty much all fell in the 9th Congressional District represented by Rep Robert Pittenger. Under the new boundaries, North Mecklenburg now moves to the newly configured 12th District and South Iredell goes to the new 13th District. This has some major implications for voters in both areas – particularly in this election cycle.
The only thing that’s guaranteed is that Rep Robert Pittenger won’t be representing the area. He decided to stay with the 9th District which now only includes the southeast portion of Mecklenburg County and runs east along the South Carolina border.
North Mecklenburg voters are almost certain to see a partisan switch in their representation. Like the old gerrymandered 12th District, the new boundaries are heavily tilted towards a Democrat winning the district. The new district is entirely within Mecklenburg, the only single county district in the state. Since North Mecklenburg is heavily Republican, the Democrat candidates have not been all that visible here. The one exception may be Tricia Cotham. Cotham, the daughter of Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham, currently serves in the state legislature. She is making s strong play for North Mecklenburg voters by opposing the I77 HOT Lanes project.
Iredell County voters in the new 13th District face a different challenge at the polls. Like the old 9th District, the new 13th is heavily Republican. This district however, is a truly open race this year and has drawn a record number of candidates – 23 in all with a whopping 17 Republicans. Many of these candidates are not well known across the district which stretches from Iredell over to Gilford County. Instead they are counting on a doing well in only a small part of the district and taking advantage of a one-time only rule for this primary election. Due to the late primary, there will be no run-off even if no candidate reaches 40% of the vote. In the 13th District that could result in a Republican “winner” who barely breaks into a double digit percentage of voters.
This will be a very, very low turnout election, but if here’s one good thing about that for voters it’s that it gives your vote a higher relative impact. Spend the next few days doing a little candidate research and head to the polls. Due to the partisan nature of the districts, in both cases the “real” election day for these races is June 7th, not in November.
Bonus Observation: On Thursday a Federal 3 judge panel unanimously upheld the newly redrawn districts while maintaining they look like a political gerrymander. See here for that story.
This post first appeared in this week's Herald Weekly at HuntersvilleHerald.com.