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State Profile -- North Carolina

After almost two years of political infighting, dealmaking and litigation, it was only fitting that North Carolina's redistricting plan ended up in the nation's highest court. Besides, it was in keeping with the highly publicized, circus-like circumstances of the Tar Heel State's mapmaking process. From the first machinations, to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1993 decision to allow white residents of the 12th District to challenge the constitutionality of the new map, the state's redistricting process was arguably the most convoluted of any state. Given the follies that marked some other states' efforts to draw lines for the 1990s, it was an especially dubious achievement.

The Supreme Court case, Shaw vs. Reno, was brought by five white voters -- two of whom were 12th District residents -- who claimed racial separation of voters violated their constitutional rights. State officials defended the map, pointing to Voting Rights Act mandates that require creation and preservation of minority-majority districts whenever possible. In allowing challenges to "bizarre" and racially gerrymandered districts, the high court may have opened a window of opportunity for legal challenges to majority-minority districts across the country.

North Carolina's story began back in July 1991, when the state Legislature approved a map that included a black-majority seat in the rural eastern part of the state. That seat would likely have elected the state's first black to Congress this century, but the Justice Department nullified the plan, ruling that one minority-majority seat was not enough. (Under Voting Rights Act provisions, North Carolina is one of 14 states that must have their congressional maps "precleared" by the Justice Department.)

Legislators responded quickly, revising the map in a January 1992 special session. They created a second black-majority district, this one an urban-based, heavily Democratic district that followed the path of Interstate 85 for over 150 miles from Durham to Charlotte. Republicans were outraged -- they believed the one-seat reapportionment gain should be theirs -- but the Justice Department approved this new version one month later. In fact, under the first rejected version, Democrats actually conceded the additional seat to the GOP.

At least Republicans could find solace in the fact that the new map gave three of the party's House incumbents comfortable seats, all located in the Piedmont region and west. And in the Asheville-based 11th, voters in 1992 re-elected their first-term GOP incumbent by a wider-than-expected margin. Prior to that year, the fickle voters of western North Carolina tossed out their House incumbent in 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986 and 1990.

The neighboring 10th District qualifies as the state's most rock-ribbed Republican district. It is the epitome of small-town North Carolina, with textiles, furniture and agriculture forming the backbone of the economy. The 9th is also comfortably Republican, but of a more moderate variety, leavened by the old- line GOP establishment in Charlotte and the city's working-class Democrats. Charlotte, the state's most populous city, transformed during the boom times of the 1970s and 1980s into the economic colossus of North Carolina and the Southeast, rivaling only Atlanta in stature.

The third GOP-friendly seat -- the Greensboro-based 6th -- is reliant on textiles and furniture making; in the city of Greensboro, the economy is a blend of manufacturing and service industry. A close look at the geography of the 6th reveals a fissure across the district, which is where the 12th District cuts through along I-85. The point where the two halves of the 6th connect (congressional districts must be contiguous) is invisible to the naked eye.

In creating the infamous 12th District, legislators had to reach into a handful of Democratic-controlled districts to siphon traditionally Democratic-voting black voters. Black neighborhoods from Charlotte, Durham, Gastonia, Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem were extracted from other districts and grafted onto the 12th. Not one whole county is taken in. Piecing together African American communities was an easier task in the 1st District in the eastern part of the state. Here there are larger concentrations of black voters, including a string of majority black counties.

The crafting of two safely Democratic, black-majority districts sent ripples through the other districts, creating a handful of competitive seats stretching from the central Piedmont region to eastern North Carolina. The Raleigh-based 4th has a distinct Democratic advantage, but Republicans find fertile ground in the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 8th districts.

The 2nd takes in parts of Durham and Rocky Mount while reaching as far south as the Sandhills resort and retirement communities on the district's southwestern fringe. The rambling 3rd ranges from the tidewater region to the tobacco-producing areas of the coastal plain. While both districts have significant Democratic voter registration edges, it no longer translates into success in statewide or national races. In recent years, conservative white Democrats have gravitated toward Republican candidates. In the southeastern 7th, which takes in parts of Fayetteville and Wilmington, voters have not strayed quite as far from their Democratic roots.

The 5th and 8th districts cover the north and south central sections of the Piedmont Plateau. Winston-Salem, an old-time tobacco town anchors the 5th, which runs along the state's northwestern tier. Beginning in the 1970s, 5th District voters began abandoning the Democratic Party in droves, particularly in presidential election years. The excision of black voters further damages Democratic prospects, though Democratic Rep. Stephen L. Neal was re-elected to a tenth term in 1992.

The textile-producing 8th has trended Republican as well, with the GOP faring best in the I-85 and I-77 corridors. Charlotte bedroom communities in Union County are also wellsprings of GOP votes. Democrats find quarter in the poorer, rural counties in the eastern portion of the district.

State Data

Governor:  James B. Hunt Jr. (D)
* First elected: 1992 *
* Length of term: 4 years
* Term expires: 1/97
* Salary: $97,600
* Term limit: 2 consecutive terms
* Phone: (919) 733-7350
* Born: May 16, 1937; Greensboro, N.C.
* Education: North Carolina State U., B.S. 1959, M.S. 
    1962; U. of North Carolina, J.D. 1964
* Occupation: Lawyer; cattle rancher 
* Family: Wife, Carolyn Leonard; four children
* Religion: Presbyterian
* Political Career: Lieutenant governor, 1973-77; * 
    governor, 1977-85; Democratic nominee for U.S. 
    Senate, 1984

Lt. Gov.: Dennis Wicker (D)
* First elected: 1992
* Length of term: 4 years
* Term expires: 1/97
* Salary: $87,000
* Phone: (919) 733-7350

 State election official: (919) 733-7173
 Democratic headquarters: (919) 821-2777
 Republican headquarters: (919) 828-6423


 North Carolina gained one House seat in 
 reapportionment, increasing from 11 districts to 12. 
 The legislature passed the map  Jan. 24, 1992; the 
 Justice Department approved it Feb. 6. 


 Bicameral General Assembly. Meets January-July.

 Senate:                       House of Representatives:
 50 members, 2-year terms      120 members, 2-year terms
 1994 breakdown: 26D, 24R;     1994 breakdown: 52D, 68R;
 44 men, 6 women               99 men, 21 women         
 Salary: $13,951               Salary: $13,951      
 Phone: (919) 733-7350         Phone: (919) 733-3451    


 1980 population   5,881,766   1990 population   6,628,637  
 Percent change      +13%      Rank among states:    10  

 White                76%      Black                22%  
 Hispanic              1%      Asian or
                                Pacific islander     1%  

 Urban                50%      Rural                50%  
 Born in state        70%      Foreign-born          2%  

 Under age 18   1,606,149   24%        Ages 18-64     4,218,147   64%  
 65 and older     804,341   12%        Median age     33.1  

 City             Pop.          Mayor
 Charlotte        395,934       Richard Vinroot, R
 Raleigh          207,951       Tom Fetzer, R
 Greensboro       183,894       Carolyn Allen, N-P
 Winston-Salem    143,485       Martha S. Wood, D
 Durham           136,611       Sylvia S. Kerckhoff, D


 Capital:             Raleigh
 Number of counties:  100
 Per capita income:   $16,642 (1991)        Rank among states:  34
 Total area:          52,669 sq. miles      Rank among states:  28


 1992 Presidential Vote          1988 Presidential Vote        
 George Bush        43.4%        George Bush            58%
 Bill Clinton       42.7%        Michael S. Dukakis     42%
 Ross Perot         13.7%  
 1984 Presidential Vote
 Ronald Reagan      62%  
 Walter F. Mondale  38%  


 Senate: 0 D, 2 R       House:  4 D, 8 R


 For Congress: No       For state offices: No

Copyright © 1996 Congressional Quarterly, Inc. All rights reserved.

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