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Proposed N.C. Map Seeks Large GOP Gains

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Rep. Brad Miller will see his North Carolina district become significantly more Republican under a proposed map redraw.

Shuler’s 11th district currently leans Republican, but under the proposed map it would be one of the most Republican in the state. It loses parts of liberal Buncombe County and gains four counties from the conservative 10th district. Shuler’s current district gave McCain 52 percent of the vote in 2008 and President George W. Bush 59 percent in 2004. Under the new lines, those numbers jump to 58 percent for McCain and 64 percent for Bush. A likely GOP candidate for the district is Hendersonville District Attorney Jeff Hunt, Republicans said.

Under North Carolina law, if a Congressional seat becomes vacant before February 2012, the governor would call a special primary and general election to fill the vacancy. The time frame for calling the elections appears to be at the governor’s discretion, an official at the North Carolina State Board of Elections said.

Another vulnerable Democrat is Kissell, a sophomore whose 8th district on the South Carolina border shifts from a district that went 47 percent for McCain in 2008 to a district that the Arizona Senator would have carried with 55 percent. Even more telling is the fact that Sen. John Kerry received 44 percent in 2004 in the current district, while under the new lines he would have taken just 38 percent of the vote there. The 8th gains half of Robeson County along with portions of Rowan, Davidson and Randolph counties.

“I plan to seek re-election, return to Congress and continue the fight on behalf of my constituents,” Kissell said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

McIntyre’s district grows more Republican, but he may be able to hold it. McCain carried the current 7th district with 52 percent. Under the draft lines, he would have taken 55 percent.

“The challenge for him ... is it adds Republican voters who are not familiar with him,” said Jonathan Kappler, the research director at the nonpartisan North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation. “It still is a winnable district for him, but it’s going to be a challenge, more so than it has been in the past,” 

Retired Marine Corps officer Ilario Pantano, who lost to McIntyre in 2010, is running again.

Paul Shumaker, a longtime GOP political strategist in North Carolina, said he believes McIntyre will be “better off than Shuler and Miller and Kissell” under the draft map. But he explained it is too early to be sure if this will be the final map for the 2012 elections. “You have the legal hurdles you have to get over. That becomes the $64,000 question,” he said.

Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, any map passed into law must be cleared by the Department of Justice or a federal court before it can be enforced.

Democrats concede the map will mean they lose seats, but think McIntyre and Kissell can be competitive, especially given that both survived the GOP wave of 2010.

“The biggest takeaway here is there is going to be a ton of money spent on Congressional races in 2012,” said Thomas Mills, a North Carolina Democratic consultant. “The districts are going to be more competitive than Republicans think.”

Mills also warned that given the new constituents many Republicans will have, incumbents could face unexpected Republican primary challenges.

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