North Carolina Democrats look to redistricting to change the political dynamics in Raleigh

by WorldTribune Staff, July 27, 2017

Pained to see Republicans routinely overriding Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes, Democrats in North Carolina are hoping redrawn districts will enable them to knock down the GOP’s super-majority.

A federal court ruled that 28 North Carolina House and Senate districts are illegally race-based. That ruling was upheld earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court, which returned the case to the U.S. District Court to decide the next steps.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper

Democrats need to win just three more House seats or six Senate seats to end the GOP’s super-majority in Raleigh.

“There’s a sense of a looming change coming with redistricting,” said Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University and not related to the governor.

The GOP majority has been able to steamroll Cooper, who narrowly defeated Republican incumbent Pat McCrory in November.

A week after Cooper’s victory was confirmed, Republicans convened a special legislative session in which they stripped the governor of power over elections, limited the number of policy positions he could fill and subjected his Cabinet to state Senate confirmation.

After Cooper attempted to block some of the laws in court, with mixed results, GOP lawmakers passed a state budget that included a provision to stop Cooper’s use of taxpayer dollars to hire private lawyers to sue.

“We don’t think it’s appropriate to sue the state and use state dollars to do so,” Senate leader Phil Berger said last month. “If he wants to sue the state, he can use private dollars.”

Before this year’s main legislative work session adjourned on June 30, the GOP overrode Cooper’s veto of a state budget that includes tax cuts, took away his ability to fill upcoming appeals court vacancies and cut spending in his office.

“They certainly do have the votes,” Cooper said when faced with a GOP override of his state budget veto, adding he’d “work to fight another battle on another day.”

In this fall’s session, GOP legislators are expected to redraw General Assembly districts struck down by federal courts. Democrats hope the new boundaries will likely put many GOP-leaning districts in play.

“I think you can see from this session what a difference that would have made,” said Gary Pearce, a longtime North Carolina Democratic consultant.

Cooper is looking to the courts to order a special election this fall under the newly-redrawn maps. Republicans say there’s not enough time and elections should wait until November 2018.

Cooper has raised more than $1 million to help Democrats in their effort to win more legislative seats, with the goal of winning majorities by 2020.

Republicans say they will continue to build on their policies that have re-invigorated North Carolina’s economy.

Republican Rep. David Lewis, chairman of the House Rules Committee, said lawmakers “will meet and do those duties needed to create jobs and provide tax relief to the middle class. The governor can work with us or continue to play to and listen to the far-left wing of his party.”

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