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Race ratings: New map erases Democrats’ edge in North Carolina

Races for three seats held by Democrats now rated Likely Republican

Democratic Rep. Don Davis is facing a Toss-up race next year under North Carolina’s redrawn congressional map.
Democratic Rep. Don Davis is facing a Toss-up race next year under North Carolina’s redrawn congressional map. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

North Carolina continued its biennial tradition of redrawing its congressional map, and the latest iteration has a significant impact on the fight for the House majority. 

Empowered by a new majority on the state Supreme Court, Republicans in the North Carolina legislature redrew the congressional map to give the GOP a new and significant advantage in three Democrat-held districts and a fighting chance to take over a fourth seat currently held by a Democrat.

Depending on the outcome of the races next November, the state’s delegation could shift from a post-2022 split between seven Republicans and seven Democrats to a delegation that includes 10 or 11 Republicans and just three or four Democrats. 

Overall, Democrats need a net gain of five seats across the country to regain the House majority, but the North Carolina map makes that task functionally harder.

Republicans redrew seats represented by Democratic Reps. Kathy Manning (6th District), Wiley Nickel (13th) and Jeff Jackson (14th) from districts Joe Biden would have carried in 2020 to ones that President Donald Trump would have won with at least 57 percent. Inside Elections rates the trio of races as Likely Republican

Jackson opted to run for state attorney general rather than attempt to win in the newly configured district. Manning and Nickel have not announced their plans. 

A fourth Democrat, Don Davis, is also in electoral danger considering Biden would have won the redrawn 1st District by about 1 point. That race is initially rated as a Toss-up by Inside Elections.

Three races are rated Solid Democratic: the 2nd (represented by Deborah K. Ross), 4th (Valerie P. Foushee) and 12th (Alma Adams). Seven districts are rated Solid Republican including the 3rd (Greg Murphy), 5th (Virginia Foxx), 7th (David Rouzer), 8th (Dan Bishop), 9th (Richard Hudson), 10th (Patrick T. McHenry) and 11th (Chuck Edwards). The 8th District is open because Bishop is running for state attorney general as well. Hudson is chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is in charge of retaining Republicans’ majority.

At the beginning of the cycle, Inside Elections did not rate races in North Carolina or Ohio with the expectation of new maps in both states. But a previous court decision that kept the Ohio lines in place and the new North Carolina map brings the House battleground into focus, and the initial outlook is good for Republicans. 

If the GOP wins all of the races the party is favored to win based on the ratings (all of the ones rated Solid, Likely, Lean and Tilt GOP), Republicans would be at 217 seats, just one seat shy of a majority. In other words, Republicans would need to win just one of the 12 Toss-up races to retain control of the House. Democrats, on the other hand, would need to win all of the races where they are favored (including the newly redrawn 2nd District in Alabama) and all 12 of the Toss-ups to reach 218.

But it’s not easy to factor in the volatility at the top of the ticket. There has been a strong correlation between the presidential race and House races in recent elections. In 2020, voters in 96 percent of House districts voted for the same party for president as they did for the House. 

So if Trump’s political support collapses, whether from legal issues or something else, that would jeopardize Republicans’ hold on the House. On the other hand, if Biden slips further in the polls, then Democrats would have a slim chance of winning the majority and might have to wait for a midterm wave election in 2026 with Trump in the White House once again.

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.

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