For six hours Thursday, three words- stacking, unpacking, and hijacking -were thrown about in cliche fashion by liberals and race-baiting bigots, alike. These words rolled off the lips of NAACP officials, several democrat party chairpersons, and mountain folk, many of whom questionably understood what the terms ‘stacking’ and ‘unpacking’ mean. In all, some 75 citizens from our fair state spoke over these 6 hours on the subject of re-districting North Carolina’s 13 congressional parcels. To witness these musings was at least a bit entertaining, if not educational.
One of the more amusing speakers during the session was the Reverend Doctor William Barber II, President of the North Carolina Chapter of the NAACP. North Carolina’s very own the ‘buffet slayer’ took every second of his allotted five minutes (and then some), to express more rhetorical and inflammatory innuendo than Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Louis Farrakhan combined might have mustered. In his trademark fashion, Barber contradicted himself repeatedly during what appeared to be prepared remarks, at once decrying the stacking and unpacking of districts with minority voters. In the end, he was merely there to put on a show of protest for whatever the maps might have produced and regardless of what the districts reflected.
Thirty or so speakers praised the work of the Rucho-Lewis commission for their clean-up of the badly gerrymandered districts they inherited from more than 100 years of democrat rule in Raleigh. True to their charter, the commission managed to balance the party, demographics, and population counts to comply with the Voter Rights Act (VRA) and court cases, leaving generally intact the 1st, 4th, and 12th districts which were mandated to remain majority-minority districts. Still, 30 or so speakers complained that two of these three districts were unacceptable– the 1st District because it was “unpacked” of some minorities; and the 12th because it was further “stacked” with minorities from Charlotte to Greensboro along the I-85 corridor. It seems the Dems aren’t pleased with anything except the status quo, complaining the GOP has “hijacked” the state for purely political purposes.
One interesting comment repeated all evening long was the liberal plea to republicans to re-start the process by employing a bi-partisan or non-partisan approach to re-districting, beginning with a blank map and making perfectly compact and contiguous districts. Such an approach would actually violate the Voting Rights Act, would never stand up in the courts, and would represent a complete departure from what the democrats had done in gerrymandering districts for political purposes for many decades. Not surprisingly, that message didn’t seem to resonate with GOP speakers or with decision-makers who populated each of the nine sites in the video-conference.
Perhaps the most prevalent complaint heard throughout the six hour public hearing pertained to the 11th District’s loss of Asheville and the most highly populated part of southeast Buncombe County to the 10th District. There were at least 20 speakers during the evening who complained about the new 11th District, lamenting how Asheville was being attached to the Republican-held 10th District, where its progressive voice will be lost among the fiscal and social conservatism of young Patrick McHenry’s district voters.
Lee County had one speaker (Commissioner Jim Womack) who expressed pleasure with the county’s new alignment under Howard Coble and the 6th Congressional District. He welcomed the inclusion of the military cantonment area of Ft Bragg, Spring Lake, western Harnett County, most of Lee County and a broad swath of the 421 corridor in this district that stretches from the Sandhills to the Piedmont. The district likely will become one of the state’s most conservative districts. Womack requested that Sen. Rucho re-assess the need to slice off 700 or so Lee County voters in northeast Lee County, recommending instead that Rucho re-draw the 4th District – 6th District boundary north of the Deep River and along the Harnett County line, leaving Lee County completely in the 6th District.
When all is finalized, there is little doubt that liberal and progressive reactionaries will test the legitimacy of these new districts in the NC court system: Dr. Barber even promised to “see Rucho-Lewis in court.” In the end, though, it seems probable that little will be altered in the plans and these new districts will be in place for at least 10 years. It also looks likely that 10 or maybe even 11 of the 13 districts will now be competitive for GOP candidates, rather than just 6 or 7 winnable districts in the past.
Here are some projections–
* These district maps will not see much change between their present draft form to what the courts approve in a few months.
* Republican incumbents will fare well in their newly drawn districts during the 2012 campaign.
* Illario Pantano (R) will win the coastal 7th District in 2012, ousting Mike McIntyre in 2012.
* Brad Miller (D) will be vulnerable with his newly drawn 13th district and his seat will be targeted by national and state-level republicans for GOP takeover.
* G.K. Butterfield (D) will be surprisingly vulnerable in the VRA-scrutinized 1st district race in 2012, eventually losing to a moderate republican who has strong roots in an around Wake County.
* In all, 10 of the 13 congressional districts will be won by the GOP in 2012 (with only the 12th being safe for the Dems and where the 1st and 4th districts will be very hotly contested).