With new Congressional districts approved by the North Carolina Supreme Court – its third new map in four cycles – it appears the Tar Heel state’s long-running redistricting cycle might be coming to a close. This new map has an even partisan split and would be likely to yield either an 8-6 Republican or 7-7 delegation. Candidates are already beginning to make their moves, but what seats are the most important to watch in 2022?
Key Districts Overview
Only one district in the new map is truly a tossup – the new CD-13. On the whole, this 8-6-1 map is remarkably stable and inelastic, providing limited opportunities for true competition for either party. Because of this, I’ll only be covering the handful of competitive and open races – the vast majority of districts simply aren’t worth watching.
It’s worth noting that this map will almost certainly be redrawn in 2024. Mid-decade redistricting for Congressional districts is allowed in North Carolina, and Republicans are expected to hold the legislature. Moreover, two Democratic-held Supreme Court seats are up in 2022; flipping even a single seat would result in a Republican majority. With Democratic Governor Roy Cooper having no constitutional role in redistricting, this would leave state Democrats with few options other than unfriendly federal courts.
In other words – it’s quite likely this map only lasts for a single term. There’s also an outside chance that the map is struck down before it even has a chance to be used; the legislature asked the United States Supreme Court to strike down the map, arguing the Constitution grants only state legislatures the right to approve Congressional maps. It’s unlikely that the Supreme Court actually strikes the map down, but it is a distinct possibility.
CD-01 (Leans Democratic)
- 2020 result: Biden+7
- 2016 result: Clinton+10
- Demographics: 50% white, 41% black
This open congressional seat, currently held by retiring Democrat G.K. Butterfield, starts as Leans Democratic. Long a subject of litigation, this district’s lines haven’t truly been contentious in any proposed map so far; none of them attempt to draw in urban portions of Durham or Wake County in the seat, leaving its present configuration as a majority-white seat intact.
While Democrats are the early favorites here, a few warning signs are apparent. Long a Democratic stronghold due to its high black population, CD-01 has seen a rapid population decline among its majority-black counties. This trend, combined with rural white voters shifting to vote more Republican, has resulted in it becoming increasingly competitive. Despite a national shift towards the Democrats in 2020, the new CD-01 actually shifted several points to the right.
The most prominent Democrats that have announced for the seat are State Senator Don Davis, former State Senator Erica Smith, and Representative James Gailliard. On the Republican side, 2020 nominee Sandy Smith is running again; Rocky Mount Mayor Sandy Robertson has also filed to run. As the mayor of a Democratic-leaning city, Robertson could be a compelling candidate for Republicans, but it remains to be seen who the nominee will be. Both candidate quality and the national environment will be important here.
CD-04 (Safe Democratic)
- 2020 result: Biden+35
- 2016 result: Clinton+34
- Demographics: 56% white, 27% black, 11 hispanic
While CD-04 won’t be a competitive seat in the general election, it has a crucial Democratic primary to follow. Incumbent Democrat David Price is retiring, leaving this highly college-educated and liberal seat wide open. Progressives are hoping to elect a candidate more liberal than the establishment-friendly Price.
The most prominent Democrats to announce are Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam and State Senator Valerie Foushee of Chapel Hill. Allam, the Muslim elected to office in North Carolina, touting endorsements from Keith Ellison, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar, while Foushee has support from a number of state elected officials; both would be the first people of color to represent the district. Expect local politics to play a major role here, particular the conflict between white progressives and more moderate black voters and officials.
CD-09 (Likely Republican)
- 2020 result: Trump+8
- 2016 result: Trump+8
- Demographics: 59% white, 25% black, 11% hispanic
We don’t anticipate that this seat will be competitive; even Roy Cooper lost it in 2020, and the large Republican bulwark of Randolph County (Trump+56) provides a solid buffer for any Republican.
However, the primary will be worth watching here; Republican Richard Hudson of Concord is running here, as is Fayetteville representative John Szoke. Hudson is a high-ranking Republican and has represented most of the district, including Fayetteville for quite a while, but is more connected to the Charlotte area.
On the Democratic side, State Senator Ben Clark of Fayetteville is running, but with the seat being so Republican, it seems unlikely he’ll be able to win.
CD-11 (Safe Republican)
- 2020 result: Trump+10
- 2016 result: Trump+15
- Demographics: 85% white
CD-11 represents one of the few benefits to Republicans from their original map; the court-drawn version is slightly more Republican. While the seat is out of reach for Democrats, the Republican primary is going to be interesting to watch. Incumbent Republican Madison Cawthorn had previously announced plans to abandon the seat and run in the Charlotte area. With the second Charlotte seat now being safely Democratic, it’s expected that Cawthorn will instead return to the 11th district.
It’s unclear what the impact of Cawthorn’s initial decision will be on his primary performance here, but the seat has already has a credible Republican in the field: State Senator Chuck Edwards. The controversial Cawthorn has a slew of campaign cash, but will voters care about his initial decision to carpetbag? We’ll see.
CD-13 (Leans Republican)
- 2020 result: Biden+2
- 2016 result: Trump+2
- Demographics: 62% white, 22% black, 11% hispanic
This narrowly Biden-won open seat begins as Leans Republican, but it’s a credible opportunity for both parties. Based almost entirely in the Raleigh area, this seat is a mix of white, liberal urban areas and suburbs, black urban areas, Republican exurbs, and rural areas that are both majority-white and majority-black.
On the Democratic side, State Senator Willy Nickel has announced his candidacy and seems like the clear frontrunner for the nomination. The Republican side remains unclear; several Republicans, including former Congresswoman Renee Ellmers and four-time district-hopping gadfly Bo Hines, had announced plans to run in the 4th district, which contained large portions of the new 13th. It remains to be seen exactly how many decide to stay in the race.
CD-14 (Safe Democratic)
- 2020 result: Biden+16
- 2016 result: Clinton+10
- Demographics: 60% white, 21% black, 11% hispanic
The new CD-14 is an abomination to behold, slicing up large, divergent chunks of south Charlotte and lumping them with Gastonia. It’s abundantly clear that this seat will not be retained for the 2024 cycle, making it likely a one-term rental. Because Republicans have no shot of winning this new, open seat, the Democratic primary is the only thing worth watching here; State Senator Jeff Jackson has announced a run for the seat, and Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt has also expressed interest in running. Former Representative Chaz Beasley, NC-09 candidate Dan McCready, and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles have also been cited as potential candidate.
While Jackson isn’t an ideal candidate for a competitive seat – he ran seven points behind Joe Biden in 2020 – he would have no issues winning this district, which has a fairly similar partisanship to his State Senate district. Other Democrats would also have no issue winning the seat, but given its unclear future, it is uncertain who exactly will be interested in running here.