New congressional district WNC could give Democrats a chance in a heavily Republican area

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The new 14th congressional district

New lines for the congressional district of western North Carolina will take it from one reliable Republican victory to one that gives Democrats a chance, according to experts and candidates.

The district – for decades the 11th, but now called the 14th – will cover 15 western counties, including Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania. New to the district is Watauga, a Democratic county that is home to the town of Boone and the Appalachian State University.

Unlike the current 11th, the 14th excludes the conservative counties of McDowell, Polk and Rutherford. The new district also does not include a piece carved in Watauga around the house of Rep. Virginia Foxx which places it in the new 11th district and prevents it from being “double-bunted” with fellow GOP Rep Madison. Cawthorn of Henderson.

The current 11th Congressional District.

The current 11th Congressional District.

The 2020 census figures gave the state yet another district, now up to 14. In a party line vote on Nov. 4, the Republican-majority state legislature passed maps for the districts. of the North Carolina Congress for the next decade. Governor Cooper does not have the right to veto the redistribution.

Cawthorn has not commented on the new lines. On November 5, his spokesperson, Luke Ball, did not respond to a question asking whether the first-term representative who has become a nationally known far-right figure would run for the district.

Congressman Madison Cawthorn speaks during a meeting with the Buncombe County Board of Education on Thursday August 5, 2021.

Congressman Madison Cawthorn speaks during a meeting with the Buncombe County Board of Education on Thursday, August 5, 2021.

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, a liberal from Asheville and one of twelve candidates running for the district, said the new district decidedly increased Democrats’ chances.

“Under the new maps, the WNC district represented by Madison Cawthorn has become much more Democratic and is now one of the few truly competitive congressional districts in North Carolina,” said Beach-Ferrara, an elected Buncombe County commissioner. , ordained Minister and nationally recognized LGBTQ. activist.

But the change may not be as big as Democrats hope.

While the current district is staunchly red, with a breakdown of 55% of voters in favor of Republicans and 43% of Democrats, the new lines create a district with a breakdown of 52% GOP to 45% Democrats.

Buncombe County Commissioner and 11th District Democratic candidate for Congress Jasmine Beach-Ferrara

Buncombe County Commissioner and 11th Congressional District Democratic candidate Jasmine Beach-Ferrara

Western Carolina University political science professor Chris Cooper said to put that into perspective, there are seven Democrats who have won congressional seats in districts across the country that Donald Trump won in 2020.

“The most Republican-friendly district is District 2 in Maine – a district Trump won 54-45 in 2020,” Cooper said. “The redesigned 14th, therefore, offers a potential path to victory for a Democrat, but make no mistake, it’s a narrow and treacherous path.”

Wendy Nevarez, one of three Republicans who hope to topple Cawthorn in the March 8 primary, noted the difficulty of traversing the vast and mountainous new district.

“Does anyone have a small plane we could use?” Nevarez, a moderate from Asheville, said in a Nov. 4 tweet. “This ride is bordering on ridiculous. It would take about four hours and a half to drive from end to end.”

Others have criticized Congress’ 14 cards as a whole, saying they were partisan gerrymanders who, according to analysis, will likely give Republicans 10 wins. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the cards an “F” for the GOP’s unbalanced advantage.

Republicans defended them, saying they were following redistribution criteria such as minimizing the number of counties divided into divided districts and municipalities.

“I think we obeyed the law,” said State Senator Ralph Hise, Mitchell County Republican and constituency committee co-chair. The mapping in the committee rooms was broadcast live for weeks.

Democrats said fairly sketchy maps would reflect the nature of the state’s battlefield that chose Trump in 2020 by 1.3 percentage points, but elected Cooper, a Democrat, as governor by 4.5. points.

Eric Gash of Henderson County, who is running for the new district, called the lines “dirty politics” in a Nov. 4 tweet. He urged Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act that would restore the ability of voters to challenge redistribution laws or onerous voter identification requirements that may be discriminatory.

“Fair cards and secure elections are NOT a partisan issue,” said Gash, school principal, minister and former football coach.

His fellow candidate Beach-Ferrara said the Republicans were “again trying to thwart the will of voters by destroying constituencies to maximize their political power,” and called for an independent redistribution commission, a change that was backed by some Republicans.

The question remains whether the cards will hold up. The last decade has seen several chases and lines redesigned. A lawsuit has already been filed by the state’s NAACP and others, challenging the Republican refusal to consider race-based data when developing legislative constituencies.

Democratic State Senator Julie Mayfield, speaking to the Conservative Council of Independent Business Owners on November 5, criticized not only the congressional maps but also those drawn for both houses of the General Assembly.

“All three cards, those of Congress, Senate and House, are in some places quite heavily gerrymandered. As you may know, the first lawsuit has already been filed. More are coming on all of them. those cards and we’ll just have to see how that plays. “

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Joel Burgess has lived at WNC for over 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He has written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Help us support this type of journalism by subscribing to the Citizen Times.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: “Path” for Democrats in New District of WNC House: Covers Asheville, Boone


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