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New N.C. Map Gives Democrats More Heartburn

North Carolina Republicans released a second draft of a new Congressional map Tuesday that is worse politically for Democrats than the original version released earlier this month.

The new map draws Democratic Reps. Brad Miller and David Price together into Price’s 4th district and puts Democratic Reps. Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell together in Kissell’s 8th district. The first version of the map did not pair any incumbents together and the latest, and likely final version, looks substantially different from that draft and the current map. Tar Heel State Republicans attributed the changes made to the new map largely to the requests of Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield, an accusation he denied.

“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 5s and, in essence, we gave that back and we moved him into Durham,” state Sen. Bob Rucho (R), chairman of the chamber’s redistricting committee, said in an interview.

Rucho was 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. The district remains heavily Democratic.

Rucho added that McIntyre and Kissell, as well as Miller and Price, were drawn together as 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. “We believe the maps are fair, legal and competitive.”

Butterfield said he did “express [his] outrage” at the first draft of the map, which took five Section 5-covered counties out of his district. And while he was “cautiously comfortable” with his new draft district, he said re-enfranchising African-Americans in the covered districts did not necessarily nor logically lead to the current draft map.

The map released Tuesday moved Butterfield’s district out of Wake County and into Durham County.

“Now they’re saying because I stood up for the voting rights of minorities in those five counties that were removed, the only way they could do this thing was to go into Durham County and to get me out of Wake County. That is not the case,” he said in an interview a few hours after the new map was released.

“They could have taken my district in any number of directions,” he said. “But they have the power of the pen … and at some point it will be tested in the courts.”

Butterfield added that he didn’t think a map with 10 Republican districts and three Democratic ones properly represented North Carolina.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Miller said he is still running for re-election. Several Republicans announced bids or said they are contemplating running against Miller in the 13th district after the first draft map was released.

The 13th district moves from the Virginia border to a more central part of the state in the new map.

“The Justice Department and the courts will decide if the 13th District [as newly drawn] meets the law — currently it does not and my intention is to run again,” Miller said.

Miller also told WRAL, a local television station, that, “there is no possibility that David Price and I would run against each other.”

The 4th district, currently based around Raleigh-Durham, remains solidly Democratic. Price said in a statement that he looked forward to representing the district “in whatever form it emerges.”

The proposed 8th district, currently represented by Kissell, appears difficult for a Democrat to win comfortably: It would have voted 57 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential election. President Barack Obama carried the current district with 52 percent. Kissell said he would run again in the 8th.

Jonathan Kappler, research director at the nonpartisan North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation, who has followed the redistricting process closely, said the new map further increases the likelihood that Republicans will control a 10-3 majority in the delegation after 2012.

“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 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 in 2004.

Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler’s western 11th district would be the most Republican in the state under the new lines, which was also the case under the first draft map. Under the proposed lines, McCain would have carried the district with 59 percent, instead of the 52 percent he actually won it by.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Adam Hodge said that Democrats could still win in more difficult districts. He also cautioned that the proposed map is a long way from being finalized, especially if the lines end up being challenged in court, as expected.

“This version of the Republican map is so gerrymandered that you could throw a paper airplane across NC-04,” Hodge said. “North Carolina Democrats are battle-tested and know how to win tough races. They won during one of the most difficult election cycles in a generation, and we’re confident that they can do it again.”

Rucho said he expects the map released Tuesday to be the final version. It is likely to be voted on by the legislature later this month. Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue cannot veto it under North Carolina law.

The Voting Rights Act mandates that either the Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia must pre-clear the map before it can be enacted.

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