GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning said Friday morning — just hours before the North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the voting maps that had raised questions about her plans — that she is “planning on running” for a second term in Congress.
Manning, a Democrat from Greensboro whose 6th District seat has been at the heart of a legal dispute about electoral maps that is playing out in the North Carolina Supreme Court, said in an interview with WGHP that she would run for a second term in Washington.
“I am forging ahead; I am planning on running,” she said. “I am confident that the court will make the right decision. I am confident that we will get maps that make sense, maps that allow every vote to count.”
The maps that were drawn and passed in November by the Republican-led General Assembly divided Manning’s district, which is all of Guilford County and the area of Forsyth County around Winston-Salem, among four disparate and somewhat far-flung districts.
The Supreme Court, by a 4-3 margin, ordered the maps to be redrawn and gave the General Assembly two weeks to do so.
Manning had been listed as one of two incumbents in the new 11th District, along with current 5th District Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk). That district includes Greensboro and northwestern Guilford County but also stretches along the Virginia border to include Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, Alleghany, Wilkes, Ashe, Caldwell and Alexander counties. Small portions of Watauga County also are included, which encompass Foxx’s home, although congressional candidates aren’t required to live in their districts.
Foxx announced in November she would run in the 11th, but until Friday Manning had talked about the problems with the “extreme partisan gerrymander” of the electoral maps and had not spoken publicly about her personal plans.
The maps were the focus of three lawsuits that were combined into one case and heard last month by a 3-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court. That court ruled that there was no constitutional basis to call for the maps to be redrawn (as was ordered by courts in 2016, 2018 and 2020) even though they clearly were created by extreme partisan gerrymandering.
That decision was appealed to the North Carolina Supreme Court, which on Wednesday morning heard oral arguments, which issued its ruling late Friday.
Manning has been outspoken since legislators adopted the maps, which added a 14th seat granted by the census but regrouped voters into districts that likely would elect 10 or 11 GOP candidates to the House. Republicans have a current 8-5 edge.
“As you know, the trial court found without any difficulty that these maps are the result are the result of extreme partisan gerrymander,” Manning said.
Manning has continued to raise money toward a race. Federal Election Commission records show that in the fourth quarter of 2021 Manning raised $279,950, most of it in smaller donations. She has about $956,247 cash on hand, the FEC says.
“I’ve been optimistic from the beginning of this process,” she said, “optimistic because the gerrymandering so extreme, so outrageous a partisan draw of these maps … that I felt confident if we could just get the case to the North Carolina Supreme Court they would find that these are intentionally partisan gerrymandered map, that they would find that these maps violate the free and fair election clause of the North Carolina Constitution.”
The issue of “free and fair” versus just “free” came up Wednesday in arguments before the court. Attorney Phil Strach, arguing for the defendants, said that the constitution advocates “free” but not “free and fair.” He said that differential was one reason that gerrymandering wasn’t adequately addressed and, therefore, the maps are the purview of the General Assembly.
The court has a 4-3 edge for elected Democrats, and those four associate justices were active in questioning attorneys from both sides about their briefs in the case and how they were applying standards for drawing maps. Chief Justice Paul Newby was the only elected Republican to ask any questions.
Manning lost her first bid for Congress in 2018, when she challenged Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) in the 13th District. But when the courts intervened and required another redraw of a map that had split Guilford County down the middle, Manning won easily in the new district.
She said the 6th District as it is meets “all the criteria for what you should have when you are drawing maps.
“It’s compact,” she said. “It has communities of interest. When I’m advocating for something that’s important to Greensboro, that same issue matters to High Point, to Winston-Salem to all of Guilford County. “
She said redistricting is a prime topic on the House floor in Washington. “I’m involved in conversations with a lot of my colleagues whose districts are changing and moving.”
She also said she supports having an independent redistricting commission that would oversee this process. The establishment of such a commission is included in the voting rights bill that has passed the House and languished in the Senate. There also are bills that have been introduced in Raleigh with bipartisan support – state House Whip Jon Hardister (R-Guilford County) has backed one version – but they have been relegated to committees.
“I think an independent commission is right way to go,” Manning said. “I’m not sure what the objection would be. … It certainly has worked in other states. In Michigan right now.”