After a federal court last week ordered North Carolina’s legislature to draw new, legal boundaries for nine state Senate districts and 10 House ones, newly designated state House Whip Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) was quick to respond to a comment on his Facebook page about his party’s plans for a response.
He called the ruling “appalling,” and pledged to appeal the decision and “stand our ground to activist judges.” And to his credit, he engaged in some back-and-forth on the thread with both supporters and detractors before things hit critical mass about 12 hours later.
Forget for a moment that Hardister has been trying to push his HB 92, an independent redistricting bill — one that would de-politicize the practice by using an independent commission to draw the lines — through the House since 2015. Remember instead that he has just been elected House whip.
Remember too, that Hardister’s District 59 was one of the ones that flipped after the 2011 GOP redistricting, when its former Democratic representative, Maggie Jeffus, got double-bunked with Rep. Pricey Harrison, both Democrats.
District 59, now covering most of eastern Guilford County, is not one of the ones declared illegal by the court. But all the ones around it — Harrison’s District 57, covering the northeast quadrant of Greensboro; Rep. Cecil Brockman’s District 60, which has portions of east-central High Point and southwest Greensboro connected by a thin sliver along Interstate 86; and the great chunk of Greensboro that is District 58, which is now Rep. Chris Sgro’s turf but will pass over to Amos Quick in the new term — made the list.
The judges’ opinion called for special elections in the fall for all new districts, and while some across the state may not be altered, re-cutting a district is a tricky business, a zero-sum game, and it’s unfathomable that Hardister’s district will remain intact.
Of the state’s 50 Senate districts, just 19 have been deemed illegal. The ones that matter in the Triad are repped by Sen. Gladys Robinson in District 28, which captures much of the African-American population of Greensboro and High Point, and Sen. Paul Lowe inDistrict 3, which covers similar ground in Winston-Salem.
They’ve all got to be redrawn by March, followed almost immediately by a primary in May and then one barn-burner of an odd-year election.
Just as with the special Congressional election earlier this year, we could be looking at dozens of candidates, and it’s possible that an entirely new balance of power could be established in Raleigh, one a little less concerned with disrupting elections and where people go to the bathroom.