U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre’s bid for a ninth term in Congress might not be determined at the ballot box in November 2012, but could instead be decided in the coming weeks on an easel in Raleigh.
For the first time in almost forever, Republicans control both houses of the General Assembly, and the timing for them couldn’t be better as district lines that will be used for the next decade must be drawn to align with the 2010 census. After being gerrymandered out of power for a century, the GOP will be looking for some retribution, and Republicans apparently covet the District 7 seat tightly held by McIntyre, a Lumberton Democrat, since he first waded into the political pool in 1996.
McIntyre never had a serious Republican opponent in the General Election until 2010, when Ilario Pantano garnered about 47 percent of the vote. Pantano, a transplanted Northerner who now claims Wilmington as his home, has already announced he will run again.
But McIntyre’s fiercest opponent might be Republicans in the General Assembly, who are unlikely to encounter a whole lot of resistance during redistricting from our local legislative delegation, which has a couple of strikes against it. Three of the four members are Democrats, the minority party, and the local delegation doesn’t boast much seniority, with two freshmen and a sophomore among their ranks. The most senior member, state Rep. Garland Pierce, does sit on the House committee in charge of redistricting, so there’s that.
Robeson County residents know who butters their bread, which is why Democrats don’t even have to campaign here. The county supported Democrat Mike Dukakis, a Massachusetts liberal, by a two-to-one margin over George Bush the dad during the 1988 presidential election, and four years earlier, went for George McGovern, also Democrat, who suffered the worst loss in a presidential race in the nation’s history.
So our allegiance is clear, and won’t escape Republicans, who could grab the paring knife and dice up Robeson County as a way to dilute that voting power.
Your politics will dictate whether or not you believe McIntyre’s exit from Congress would be a good thing or a bad thing. But on this, Robeson County Republicans and Democrats should unite: A fractured Robeson County isn’t a good thing for our clout in Congress, because lawmakers tend to be loyal to the voters who elect them, and if this county’s role in electing a U.S. representative is negligible, expect that kind of love in return.
The redistricting process is underway in Raleigh, and while new lines haven’t been drawn, there is writing on the wall.