Change is good?

Published 10:38 am Tuesday, August 22, 2017

RALEIGH – The political landscape in northeastern North Carolina will change if a proposed plan by the redistricting committees in both the NC House and NC Senate is adopted by the federal courts.

That plan includes removing Bertie County from the 5th District of the NC House, while on the Senate side a new 11-county “mega” district is under consideration.

Public hearings on a statewide effort to reconfigure House and Senate districts will be held today (Tuesday) beginning at 4 p.m. in Raleigh and at six community college campuses in regions where maps are expected to change.

Locally, a public hearing will be held in room 108 of Building #100 on the campus of Halifax Community College in Weldon. That room will seat 125.

Bertie County residents wishing to make public comment can choose to attend a hearing in Little Washington (same time, same date) at Beaufort County Community College

(5337 US Hwy 264 East). That event will be held in room 935 of Building 9. The room seats 59.

Committee members in the General Assembly will be in Raleigh to listen to the questions/concerns of the public.

Ahoskie Democrat Howard Hunter III is now in second term representing the House 5th District, which is currently comprised of all of Bertie, Gates and Hertford counties and a portion of Pasquotank County. He is a member of the House Redistricting Committee.

The committee’s recommendation for Hunter’s district is removing Bertie (adding it to the 1st House District) and adding all of Pasquotank.

“When the new proposed maps came out late last week, they were just as I thought, they broke up the 5th district,” Hunter stated. “If this plan is adopted, I will not represent Bertie County anymore. I hate that.”

Under the proposed plan, House District 5 will have a total population of 77,527. Pasquotank County dominates the population of the proposed district (40,661 citizens; representing 52.45 percent of the three-county area). Hertford County’s population is 24,669, or 31.82 percent of the district. Gates County’s 12,197 citizens represent 15.73 percent of the proposed district.

House District 1 (Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington) will have a total population of 77,143. Bertie, with 21,282 total citizens, would have the largest population of any other county in that proposed district (27.59 percent).

When the subject turned towards the newly proposed Senate districts, they do not favor a possible run by Hunter for that seat if he decided to switch chambers in the General Assembly.

“If I considered the Senate, I would not represent Bertie either,” he said.

The Senate plan keeps Bertie in the 3rd District, currently represented by Democrat Erica Smith-Ingram of Gaston, who is in her second term. The plan keeps Northampton and Martin in the 3rd District, while adding Beaufort, Vance and Warren, but it removes Hertford County.

Should that plan gain approval, it sets up an interesting political battle between two incumbent Senators, Smith-Ingram and current 1st District Senator Bill Cook, a Beaufort County Republican.

The proposed 1st Senate District covers 11 counties, which, if approved, will comprise the largest land mass area in the state. That district will cover Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hertford, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell, and Washington counties.     

Bob Steinburg, an Edenton Republican currently in his third term representing the 1st House District, said he’s interested in a run for the new Senate district if the plan is approved.

“I see the 11 counties as giving me the ability to have some real leverage in the Senate, representing an entire section of the state — hopefully with a unified voice,” said Steinburg in an Aug. 18 interview with the North State Journal.

“I have a great familiarity with this entire district, and we’ve great progress here in the Northeast. “I’d like for that to continue,” he added.

There are no proposed changes to the NC House 27th District (Halifax and Northampton counties). Michael Wray, a Democrat from Gaston, has represented that District for seven, two-year terms.

The General Assembly has until the end of the month to submit remedial maps to a federal court panel. Lawmakers say they plan to vote on the proposed changes by August 24.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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