This is Part 2 of the review of the congressional results. Part 1 is here. This time we’re going to be looking at the results in Districts 8 through 13.
NC-08: Richard Hudson (R) vs. Antonio Blue (D)
2012 result: Hudson +8
2014 result: Hudson +30
Hudson walloped his opponent here. Last time he was running against an incumbent Democratic congressman, this time against an underfunded challenger who was much more liberal than Kissell. This district is overwhelmingly rural and rural voters tend to be pro-incumbent, but Hudson’s victory was impressive. He won Richmond County 56-44 and came close to winning Scotland and Robeson. It would be great for Republicans if they could figure out how to replicate Hudson’s margins in those counties statewide.
Danger zones for Hudson: Nowhere. This district was drawn to be strong Republican to take out Kissell, cutting off any area to which he could retreat. This is also an overwhelmingly rural district with no major cities, no major growth, and no influx of any liberals of which to speak.
NC-09: Robert Pittenger (R) vs. Nobody (D)
2012 result: Pittenger +6
2014 result: Pittenger +89
Neither the 2012 or the 2014 result is an accurate picture of where this district stands politically. In 2012, Pittenger had to endure a bitter and divisive primary while also going up against a tough opponent. And 2014 is unrepresentative because Democrats didn’t even bother to put up a candidate. Still, this is one of those districts which could possibly be competitive in the right circumstances toward the end of the decade. “Competitive” being a relative term – the GOP would still be favored here regardless. Note that despite running unopposed, about 7% voted for someone else, these votes coming primarily from Democrats frustrated with their lack of a choice here.
Danger zones for Pittenger: The Mecklenburg suburbs. This area voted in opposition to Amendment One and value fiscal conservatism over social conservatism. In the right circumstances, they could opt for a fiscally responsible, moderate Democrat.
NC-10: Patrick McHenry (R) vs. Tate MacQueen (D)
2012 result: McHenry +14
2014 result: McHenry +22
Against a weaker opponent this time around, McHenry improved in every county in his district. His smallest improvement came in Buncombe County, where Republicans had a rough year. In extraordinary circumstances this district could be competitive.
Danger zone for McHenry: Asheville. Growing and trending Democratic, it would be a headache for McHenry if the rest of the district were not so Republican. Asheville’s share of the vote here should increase steadily over the coming years, but probably not enough to endanger McHenry.
NC-11: Mark Meadows (R) vs. Tom Hill (D)
2012 result: Meadows +15
2014 result: Meadows +26
Another GOP incumbent Representative benefiting from a weaker opponent this time around. But make no mistake, Meadows would have won against anybody. Meadows is aligned with the Tea Party, but that is not a bad thing for this very conservative district in the Mountains.
Danger zones for Meadows: None. This district was drawn to knock off Heath Shuler, who retired in 2012 rather than run again. If anything, the district is too Republican, and if the GOP is still in charge of redistricting after the 2020 census, they would probably add some of Asheville back, for the benefit of strengthening the 10th.
NC-12: Alma Adams (D) vs. Vince Coakley (R)
2012 result: Watt +59
2014 result: Adams +51
Nothing to see here. Adams won the special election to fill Watt’s unexpired term and is already a Member of Congress.
NC-13: George Holding (R) vs. Brenda Cleary (D)
2012 result: Holding +13
2014 result: Holding +15
A substantial amount of Wake County is in this district, and Republicans had a bad year there. This year Wake performed like it was completely immune from the Republican wave. Whether that means the county is trending Democratic or if a backlash to the legislature quelled GOP enthusiasm is an unanswered question. Still, of all the districts held by Republicans, it appears that the 13th is the one that Democrats have the strongest chance of taking back in the near future. Unlike the other districts, which would be on the very fringes of competitiveness even in a Democratic wave year, I would wager that this one will be seeing a lot of action toward the end of the decade. And by that I mean, around 2020 or so a generic Republican would still be favored here, but only slightly. If Holding becomes entrenched, then the prospect of a Democratic pickup here fades.
The bottom line – NC Republicans did very, very well in redistricting and these results are proof. With the 9th districts’s results included, the GOP won the popular vote for Congress in NC, 56-44, so Democrats can no longer claim that the congressional delegation would have been theirs had it not been for redistricting. Redistricting helped pad the majorities, but even with the fairest districts in the world the GOP would have won the majority of congressional seats and both chambers of the General Assembly.
Going forward, Democrats don’t have a lot of opportunities to improve their numbers in the congressional delegation. The 2016 presidential election should see a more favorable electorate for them (though, it’s important to emphasize that it won’t be that much more favorable), so they have nowhere to go but up. But before they start winning more seats, they need to recruit stronger candidates. They didn’t this time and the incumbent GOP Representatives romped to victory.
Of the Republican-held seats, I don’t see the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th, or 11th becoming competitive in any scenario (unless maybe if McIntyre runs again in the 7th). The 6th and the 10th I could see becoming competitive in extraordinary circumstances, with a Democratic wave year being a necessity. The 9th is kind of tough for Republicans to lose but it’s another one I could see happening, the circumstances involved in its being competitive wouldn’t have to be as extraordinary. And finally there’s the 13th, which I could see being close even in not-so-extraordinary circumstances. But the Democratic trend there probably won’t bear fruit for another cycle or two.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Feel free to chime in below.
John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.