The completion of decennial redistricting now sets the stage for a new political season. County redistricting amounted to racial demographic shifts ranging from .14 percent up to 4.52 percent among districts in Robeson. Which means that while hundreds of Robeson residents were shifted between commissioner districts, there probably wasn’t a large enough shift to swing an election unexpectedly.
The reason is due to a difference between total population, which is the basis for redistricting and actual electorate, which is a subset of the population likely to vote. The electorate is much smaller and no district had significant shifts in the electorate for the most part. Robeson commissioners have always been cognizant of this descriptive representation. So no surprises there. But statewide redistricting was a different story.
Robeson native Mike McIntyre would have liked Robeson to be included within the 7th Congressional District. The Republican legislature wanted Robeson in the 8th District. Many local politicians desired a compromise by splitting Robeson up Interstate 95, ceding western Robeson to Democrats and eastern Robeson to Republicans. The state legislature won and most of Robeson is now in the 8th District. The effects of these new districts will be felt for the next decade.
As a result, McIntyre resides in the 8th District but will run in the new 7th District against whoever wins the Republican primary between David Rouzer and Ilario Pantano. Pantano challenged McIntyre last election. Only a small sliver of Robeson near Parkton is now in the 7th District.
Congressman Larry Kissell now represents Robeson in the 8th District and faces whoever survives a large field of Republican challengers. The field is large because the 8th District now favors GOP success. How favorable?
Well, Democrats account for 45 percent of the district in which Robeson now resides; Republicans account for 33 percent and Unaffiliated 21 percent. George W. Bush won District 8 with 62 percent to Kerry’s 36 percent; if that isn’t enough evidence, McCain won 57 percent of the district to Obama’s 41 percent, despite a large Democratic turnout. Robeson Democrats are now in the minority against huge Republican strongholds near Charlotte.
Interestingly, a Robeson resident, Dr. John Whitley, is a GOP congressional candidate originally from one of these strongholds in Kannapolis and is running in the GOP primary. If he wins, then Robeson will simply trade a local Democratic congressman for a local Republican one.
The governor’s race will heat up as well with Republican Pat McCrory challenging Gov. Bev Purdue again. House Speaker Thom Tillis was not very shy with another override of a Purdue veto last week. The latest override upset the North Carolina Association of Educators as it prevents the group from deducting teachers’ membership dues directly from their paychecks. The NCAE is understandably concerned because teachers may not pay dues as easily, decreasing their revenue. The question has already reached the courts.
District attorneys across the state were already upset with the Perdue’s veto of a bill to dismantle parts of the Racial Justice Act. The Act allows inmates to use statistics that have nothing to do with their individual cases to overturn death sentences. These vetoes and overrides will be central to the governor’s race.
Little can be said about national races until after the primaries. It was rumored that Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain would possibly have made a stop in Robeson had his campaign continued. Republican congressional candidate Vernon Robinson was hoping to arrange those visits. Cain and Robinson are both African-American Republicans and Robinson’s campaign would certainly have benefited from Cain’s presence on the campaign trail.
Nevertheless, there is potential for shifts everywhere this year. North Carolina has become a swing state. Democrats realize this and have wisely planned their National Convention in Charlotte. But the registration shifts that create a swing state are not the biggest reason.
Again, it’s the decennial gift of re-districting — the gift where instead of you picking politicians, they pick you.
— Phillip Stephens is chairman of the Robeson County Republican Party.