UPDATE: After an NC Court of Appeals three-judge panel issued a pause on Monday morning, the full court voted Monday evening to overrule the three-judge panel, the News & Observer reports.
This allowed for candidate filing to begin.
All those jockeying for positions to run for the 14 congressional districts in North Carolina – some of whom were lined up in Raleigh – can stand down for at least a few days.
The NC Court of Appeals issued a pause Monday morning just minutes before filing was to begin for those races plus those for the NC House and Senate, even as candidates were gathering at the state fairgrounds to submit their papers at noon.
The court’s injunction provides until Thursday an opportunity for the defendants to respond in a suit brought by a group known as the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters and numerous individuals.
They say the maps drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature from the 2020 census were gerrymandered illegally to give the GOP control of at least 10 of the 14 congressional districts and both state houses. The GOP has a current 8-5 edge.
On Friday a 3-judge panel had declined to delay the opening of candidate filing, which is scheduled through noon on Dec. 17, and the state primary, which is set for March 8.
Monday’s ruling, signed by Court of Appeals Clerk Eugene H. Soar on behalf of three judges, does not affect judicial and other local elections.
But changes in maps could have profound impact on the tops of the tickets, especially those involving Congress. A dramatic new map was drawn to include a 14th seat provided by the census, and its lines affected representation across the Piedmont Triad.
Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro), who represents the 6th District for Guilford and Forsyth counties, saw her district divided dramatically and her residence placed in a far-flung 11th District that also includes 5th District incumbent Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk).
Manning has been an outspoken critic of the redistricting and has not announced her plans under the new maps. Candidates are not required to live in a district to represent it.
Her staff shared a joint response from the state’s Democratic congressional delegation: “The Court of Appeals has grasped the enormous constitutional challenge that has been presented by this clearly gerrymandered congressional map. The effect of the decision is to simply delay the filing period and not the general election. This will allow the case to be decided based on the facts and the law.”
Budd awaits Walker’s decision
Guilford County was one of the most affected counties in the redraw, because it went from being all in one district to being parts of three (10th, 11th and 7th).
The 7th District, which is comprised of the eastern half of Guilford County across to the southwestern portion of Wake County and northwestern portion of Harnett County and includes all of Alamance, Chatham, Randolph and Lee counties and an eastern slice of Davidson County, has no incumbent.
At least a half-dozen Republicans had said they would file in that district – including Bo Hines, a newcomer who previously announced a race against Foxx – but most speculation has awaited a decision by Mark Walker, who is running for the Senate seat that Republican Richard Burr is vacating but who has said he is considering dropping out of that race to run in the 7th District.
Walker, who represented the 6th District for two terms before stepping aside after the courts redrew that district for 2020, is being recruited by former President Donald Trump to make the switch, even though he doesn’t live in the 7th District.
The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that Walker on Saturday visited Trump at his home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, in a bid to win Trump’s endorsement, which Walker said would be forthcoming. But he didn’t announce a decision.
Trump’s pick in a Senate race that includes former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, is current 13th District Rep. Ted Budd (R-Davie), and Budd told WGHP on Monday that he had heard the reports and was waiting to hear about Walker’s decision.
“We plan to win either way,” Budd said. “He has been polling at 8 to 10%. It would be a net positive for us.”
The other Piedmont Triad districts
Manning’s new 11th District includes all of Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, Alleghany, Aske, Wilkes, Caldwell and Alexander counties, and it also includes small “bubbles” of Watauga County, which otherwise is in the 14th District but include Foxx’s home address. All have proven to be Republican-voting counties.
That race is one of three that were “double-bunked.” Democrat Alma Adams and Republican Dan Bishop were both placed in the 9th District (Mecklenburg County). Bishop’s staff told The News & Observer that he will run in the 8th District, and Adams will run in the new 9th, which is considered a “safe” Democratic district.
Incumbents Budd and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-Denver) are both part of the new 12th District, but Budd’s Senate race remedies that.
The new 10th District includes the southwestern corner of Guilford County, both north and east of High Point, the western swathe of Davidson County, the southern half of Iredell County and all of Davie, Rowan and Cabarrus Counties. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord) is considered its incumbent.
History of redraws
The appeals court’s last-minute stay puts in play once again what has been common recently in North Carolina. Courts required redraws of maps for both 2016 and 2020 elections, and there have been numerous delays.
Gerry Cohen, a member of the Wake County Board of Elections and an adjunct professor at Duke University, posted on Twitter: “During redistricting litigation since 1980, NC has had all primaries delayed 2 or 3 times including 2004, just congressional twice (2016 and either 1998 or 2000) and in 1984 just ncga primaries delayed to the 2nd primary in 4 urban counties, and about 15-20 counties in northeast.”
Democrats and election observers have said the maps were drawn to give the GOP at least a 10-4 advantage and possibly 11-3 based on prior voting records. Two incumbent Democrats, G.K. Butterfield in the current 1st District and David Price in the 4th, are retiring.
In a statement NC Democratic Party Chair Bobbie Richardson applauded the court’s ruling as an important step.
“Voters should be able to select the individuals that represent them, not the other way around,” she said.
But Republican state Sen. Paul Newton of Cabarrus County, the chair of the Senate’s redistricting committee, posted this on Twitter: “In less than three hours, a secret panel of three unidentified Court of Appeals judges was able to review nearly 1,000 pages challenging maps of 184 districts, read the entire ‘record,’ and block candidate filing in every county in the state.”