These could be the least competitive congressional races we’ve seen in this state for a long time.

The only two districts that look like they could be remotely competitive are the 2nd, held by Renee Ellmers, and the 6th, the seat left open by Howard Coble’s retirement. Ellmers faces some discontent from the Right, but her opponent, Clay Aiken, will struggle to be taken seriously by voters in this very conservative district. The Democratic contender for the 6th, Laura Fjeld, looks stronger, but the 6th is just as unfriendly to Democrats and she’ll have to deal with midterm turnout as well.

There are two more open seats: the 7th, which is open following the retirement of Mike McIntyre, and the 12th, the super-Democratic I-85 “snake” district that was once Mel Watt’s. But these are not competitive seats, even though the 7th saw the closest result in the entire nation two years ago. Now that McIntyre is gone, the 7th won’t be seeing any more close election results until the next redistricting cycle at the earliest.

The lack of competition is by design. Tied for the most gerrymandered state in the nation (along with Democratic Maryland), legislators packed Democrats into three extremely blue districts, giving the other ten districts a distinct red color. If there’s going to be any action this decade, it’ll be in the red districts, but Republicans should be strongly favored in each of those districts, through the end of the decade, barring the nomination of very flawed candidates.

Thus, these should be the least competitive congressional races we’ve had in a long time. Let’s look at past election cycles and look at the race which was won by the smallest margin; this should be a good barometer of the level of competitiveness of each election cycle:

2012: NC-07 – Mike McIntyre (50%)
2010: NC-02 – Renee Ellmers (49%)
2008: NC-08 – Larry Kissell (55%)
2006: NC-08 – Robin Hayes (50%)
2004: NC-11 – Charles Taylor (55%)
2002: NC-08 – Robin Hayes (54%)
2000: NC-08 – Robin Hayes (55%)
1998: NC-08 – Robin Hayes (51%)
1996: NC-02 – Bob Etheridge (53%)
1994: NC-04 – Fred Heineman (50%)
1992: NC-05 – Stephen Neal (53%)
1990: NC-11 – Charles Taylor (51%)

As you can see, since at least 1990, there’s been at least one congressional race won with 55% or less of the vote. It’s possible that won’t be the case this year. If so, that would make this cycle the least competitive for congressional elections in North Carolina in recent memory, a true testament to the success of partisan gerrymandering.


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