Kathy Manning Could Get Boost From North Carolina Anti-Gerrymandering Ruling
A federal court ruling striking down North Carolina’s gerrymandered congressional districts could boost Jewish Democrat Kathy Manning’s chances of picking up a seat in the state — and bolster the party’s chances of retaking the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.
The Aug. 27 decision by a three-judge panel means the districts could be redrawn before the Nov. 6 elections.
Any change would likely make the 13th district, where Manning is running to unseat Republican Rep. Ted Budd, more friendly to Democrats, experts say.
“Whether or not the district lines change, we are in a strong position to win this seat and give North Carolina families the problem solver they deserve in Congress,” Manning said in a statement.
North Carolina is a swing state but Republican state lawmakers redrew district lines to allow the GOP to grab 10 out of 13 seats, including the one eyed by Manning, which stretches from Greensboro to rural counties to the west.
President Obama carried the old district in 2008 but Mitt Romney won it in 2012 and President Trump swept it by about 10% in 2016.
The judges ruled that the disenfranchisement of North Carolina Democratic voters was too egregious to ignore, and ordered Republicans and voting rights advocates to propose plans to fix it.
“We continue to lament that North Carolina voters now have been deprived of a constitutional congressional districting plan—and, therefore, constitutional representation in Congress—for six years and three election cycles,” wrote Judge James A. Wynn Jr. for the appeals court decision.
Wynn added the judges might appoint an independent special master to help draw a new map in time for the November election if lawmakers can’t or won’t act. Manning’s district and another one in the Charlotte suburbs are the most likely to be tweaked to favor Democrats, since they are already considered competitive.
Republicans were expected to ask the Supreme Court to weigh in and at least stay the decision until after the midterms. That could be complicated by the fact that the high court is now split 4-to-4 between liberals and conservatives since the resignation of Anthony Kennedy. It’s unlikely that Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s pick to replace Kennedy, could be confirmed and seated in time to play a role in the case.
Despite the ruling, Whitney Ross Manzo, an elections expert at Meredith College in Raleigh, told the Forward she believes it is “incredibly unlikely” the maps would be redrawn for the current election.
“There have already been primary elections, and the Supreme Court indicated last term that they really don’t want to rule on partisan gerrymandering yet,” Manzo, who is president of the North Carolina Political Science Association, wrote in an email.
“I think the most likely scenario is that (a federal appeals court) decides that the current maps will have to do for these elections but will need to be redrawn prior to 2020,” Manzo said.
Manzo added that if the maps were redrawn it would boost Manning’s chances since some of the Democratic voters who were packed into the adjoining 12th district, which covers Charlotte and some of its suburbs, would likely shifted into the 13th.
Manning, a former head of the Jewish Federations of North America, is one of a dozen Jewish congressional candidates who have excelled at fundraising and could be key helping the Democrats flip enough seats to win the House majority.
She outraised Budd by more than $375,000 from April through June and has more than $1.3 million cash on hand, according to FEC filings.
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The Republican incumbent is still favored for now if the map remains the same through Election Day.
Nonpartisan forecasters Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Inside Elections all give Budd the edge. Nate Silver gives Manning a one in three chance of winning.