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Latest N.C. Map Further Imperils Democrats

Updated: 7:13 p.m.

Republicans in the Tar Heel State gave a nasty kick to vulnerable Democrats with the release of their second draft of a new Congressional map that appears to draw 10 Republican districts and three Democratic ones.

The new map draws Democratic Reps. Brad Miller and David Price together into the 4th district and draws Democratic Reps. Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell together in the 8th district. The current 13th district, represented by Miller, is moved from the Virginia border to a more central part of the state.

Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler’s western 11th district would be the most Republican in the state under the new draft map, using the metric of the 2008 presidential election. Under the proposed lines, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) would have carried the district with 59 percent. In the current 11th, where Shuler won his third term with 54 percent of the vote, McCain took 52 percent.

The proposed 8th district, currently represented by Kissell, appears difficult for a Democrat to win comfortably: It would have voted 57 percent for McCain. President Barack Obama carried the current district with 52 percent.

The draft 4th district remains solidly Democratic. Price currently represents the 4th district, which is based around Raleigh-Durham.

“They had a really good shot at a 10-3 [breakdown] in the first draft map,” said Jonathan Kappler, research director at the nonpartisan North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation who has followed the redistricting process closely. “This increases the likelihood of that even more.”

“The real challenge that pushes this map toward a 10-3 map rather than a 9-4 map is how McIntyre plays,” he said. Kappler noted that most of McIntyre’s home base (including his home) is now in Kissell’s district and the new version of the 7th — the district that McIntyre currently represents — is substantially Republican.

The draft 7th “takes in big chunks of territory that he’s never represented. He is stuck is in a really hard place because he’s either going to have to run in the 8th against Congressman Kissell or he can run in the 7th,” which would have voted 58 percent for McCain and 62 percent for President George W. Bush.

The new map, released Tuesday, is the second and likely final version of a Congressional redistricting plan proposed by state Sen. Bob Rucho (R) and state Rep. David Lewis (R), the chairmen of the Legislature’s redistricting committees. Lewis and Rucho noted that the new map reflects input from the public and Members of Congress.

They said in a joint statement that the changes “stem in part from comments we received regarding our initial proposal for Congressman Butterfield’s First District. Changes we have made to the First District have had a rippling impact on most of the remaining districts.”

In an interview with Roll Call on Tuesday, Rucho explained the new map, which appears substantially different from the current map and the Legislature’s first draft, was mostly the result of input from Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield.

“We felt we had a very compact, pre-clearance map for district No. 1, and Butterfield decided that he felt that he needed the Section Fives and, in essence, we gave that back and we moved him into Durham,” Rucho said, referring to counties covered by Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The proposed 1st district increases the percentage of African-Americans and the percentage of voting-age African-Americans in the district, which Butterfield has represented for four terms.

“We believe the maps are fair, legal and competitive,” Rucho said.

Asked whether he expected to draw another draft Congressional map, the state Senator said: “I think we’re pretty close, unless we hear some other things. A lot of what we had to do is a result of Congressman Butterfield’s request.”

Rucho added that the reason McIntyre and Kissell as well as Miller and Price were drawn together was the result of adjusting the 1st district. “That wasn’t our intent to begin with, but we had no alternative as we proceeded to adjust because of the request by Butterfield,” he said.

The maps are likely to be voted on by the Legislature later this month. Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue cannot veto them under North Carolina law. Under the Voting Rights Act, either the Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia must pre-clear the maps before they can be enforced.

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