The proposed redistricting plan for the NC Senate released today by Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) dramatically redraws the political map for Guilford County.
Most significantly, Democratic Sen. Don Vaughan is drawn out of District 27. Currently configured as a compact urban Greensboro district that leans Democratic, the new district (click on thumbnail image to expand) begins in rural northeast Guilford, travels across the southern portion of the county, rounds a corner through High Point, pulls in Piedmont Triad International Airport and ends up near the Friendly Shopping Center in Greensboro.
The new district is competitive for a Republican candidate. Among the seasoned politicos who might have a shot at the new seat are Trudy Wade, a Republican member of the Greensboro City Council who ran unsuccessfully against Democrat Gladys Robinson in District 28 last year, or Laura Wiley, a former NC House member from High Point.
The proposed map manages to flip a safe Democratic seat into the contested column by packing black Democratic voters into District 28, which sees its share of registered Democrats soar from 57 percent to 66.7 percent and its share of black voting age population rise from 43.7 percent to 55.3 percent.
The current District 28 goes all the way to the Randolph county line, but the proposed district is narrowly tailored to pick up heavily black Democratic precincts in east and south Greensboro and in central High Point. As a result, the proposed District 27 is forced to travel around 28 to ensure representation for the entire county.
Keith Brown, a Republican activist in High Point, likened the proposed Senate map to a map to a plan to redistrict the Guilford County Commission proposed by Democratic chair Skip Alston.
"The 'High Point hook' is causing problems," Brown told me. "I think it's because of the Voting Rights Act. Skip Alston is doing it, and it looks like the Republicans are doing it, too."
Similar contortions in the county commission redistricting plan drawn to favor Democratic candidates has given one conservative Guilford County commentator a fit.
Vaughan finds himself in District 26, which is currently represented by Republican Speaker Pro Tem Phil Berger. The district currently includes all of Rockingham County, but covers a substantial portion of northwest and eastern Guilford. The proposed map swaps out those rural precincts and instead brings District 26 down into the heart of Greensboro, stopping at Wendover Avenue. Vaughan's precinct is only barely in the proposed District 26.
District 26 currently leans Democratic, but Berger has always enjoyed cross-party appeal and last year ran unopposed in both his primary and general election. However, in the past, most of those Democrats were rural whites. The proposed district scoops up urban Greensboro Democrats who may be less willing to cross party lines for whom the Vaughan name is an established political brand. Also, significantly, under the new map Guilford voters slighly outnumber their counterparts in Rockingham — a reversal of the current arrangement.
"The way the numbers look I don't think it's a slam dunk," Brown says. "This could be a major fight. Don Vaughan's got money and connections from his lobbying experience."
The ouster of Vaughan in Guilford County follows a pattern in Forsyth County. Rucho released partial maps for so-called Voting Rights Act districts last month, which include District 32. The district is currently represented by Sen. Linda Garrou, a powerful Democrat who co-chaired the Appropriations Commmittee before Republicans took power in Raleigh this year.
In Forsyth County the district lines are not radically redrawn. District 31, represented by Republican Pete Brunstetter expands to take in all of Yadkin County, which is currently grouped with Alleghany, Surry and Stokes counties in District 30. As in the past, District 31 picks up rural Forsyth County and conservative-leaning suburbs, making a horseshoe around the urban and liberal District 32. The new, proposed District 32 deviates from its previous contours by following Business 40 out to Kernersville. As in the past, District 32 features an apple bite in affluent, white precincts in the central-western portion of Winston-Salem, where District 31 makes an incursion. Under the new plan, the Republicans flip the precinct where Garrou lives into District 31.
Last month, Rucho and House counterpart Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), said in a statement that the decision to exile Garrou was based on the principle of improving minority representation:
Chairman Rucho also recommends that the current white incumbent for the Forsyth Senate district not be included in the proposed Senate District 32. The white incumbent has defeated African-American candidates in Democratic primaries in 2004 and 20010. The Senate chair recommends this adjustment in the absence of a tenth reasonably compact majority African-American Senate population. If adopted by the General Assembly, proposed coalition District 32 will provide African-American citizens with a more equal, and tenth opportunity, to elect a candidate of choice.