Several North Carolina Republicans in Congress are facing potential uphill battles to serve their current districts after the 2020 elections after a state court determined that old congressional maps were the result of partisan gerrymandering.
Such moves could further complicate broader Republican efforts to recapture the House amid a slate of GOP retirements. Republicans currently hold seats in 10 of the state’s 13 congressional districts. Under the new maps, it is expected that Democrats will pick up two seats, making the divide 8 to 5.
Races in North Carolina are on track to become some of the most expensive in the country in 2020. NextGen America, a group funded by Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer, announced in November plans to spend $4.5 million on voter engagement efforts in the state to elect Democrats in the Senate and other statewide offices.
According to ad-tracking firm Kantar/CMAG, the Senate race has seen nearly $13 million in TV ad buys with just under a year until the election.
The focus on North Carolina draws into sharp relief the changes taking place at the ground level in House districts.
Rep. George Holding found the state’s 2nd Congressional District altered into a likely Democratic stronghold and announced Friday that he will not seek reelection as a result.
"The newly redrawn Congressional Districts were part of the reason I have decided not to seek reelection," Holding said in a statement. "But, in addition, this is also a good time for me to step back and reflect on all that I have learned."
Holding isn't necessarily alone in considering his options. Holding and Rep. Mark Walker, of the state's 6th Congressional District, currently represent what will be Democratic districts.
Last week, Holding told reporters that he would choose not to run in a primary against another colleague to represent North Carolina in the House.
In the old map, the 2nd Congressional District included areas of Wake County where the population is predominantly white and also some neighboring Republican-leaning areas said J. Miles Coleman, the associate editor at Crystal Ball.
"But now, the new 2nd District, it's entirely Wake County, so it has more of the bluer parts of the Raleigh area," Coleman said.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball now rates the district as "Safe Democratic."
Democratic lawyer Deborah Ross has already announced she will run for the seat. Ross ran a close race against Sen. Richard Burr for Senate in 2016, with endorsements from a number of prominent Democratic organizations including EMILY’s List and the North Carolina AFL-CIO,. She ultimately lost.
In June, before any changes to the congressional maps had been made, Walker issued a statement saying he would not primary against incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis saying the support of "conservatives across North Carolina encouraging me to run for the Senate has been deeply humbling," he said. "I am confident that my continued service in the House will best help our efforts to reclaim the majority from Nancy Pelosi and advance our shared conservative goals."
However, months later, after the congressman's district was redrawn to include more Democratic-leaning enclaves such as larger, more liberal, nearby cities, like Winston-Salem, Walker expressed interest in a potential primary against Tillis or running for a congressional seat in 2022, according to a spokesperson for Walker. Crystal Ball rates Walker’s redrawn current seat as "Safe Democratic."
Political experts believe that North Carolina will gain a fourteenth House seat after the 2020 Census takes place.
"North Carolina definitely is going to gain a seat in the Census. I would be surprised if it isn’t another Democratic-leaning seat," Coleman said. "As you get more districts, it’s harder to gerrymander them, you have less room for creativity, basically."
Diane Parnell, the Rockingham County GOP chairwoman told reporters recently that she would like to see Walker run for Senate.
"He’s doing this not for himself, he’s doing this for us," she told WXII, a local news station.
Walker doesn’t have long to decide: The state’s filing deadline is Dec. 20