Forsyth County, now split between the 6th and 10th congressional districts, would become entirely part of a new 12th District that includes all or parts of five of the counties in the current 10th district, which is represented in the U.S. House by Republican Patrick McHenry.
Meanwhile, Kathy Manning, the incumbent Democrat holding the 6th District, which now includes all of Guilford County and much of Forsyth, has been drawn into a new 11th District that runs along the Virginia border and includes the home of Virginia Foxx, the current 5th district incumbent Republican.
Manning faces an uphill battle to return to Congress in 2023 if the new districts stand, since her current district would be split among four new districts, all of them leaning Republican.
“Other districts in other parts of the state, as in Charlotte, and around the Triangle area would be quite favorable for Democratic candidates,” said John Dinan, a political science professor at Wake Forest University. “But the Triad-area districts would be among the many other districts that would likely be favorable for Republican candidates.”
According to statistics provided by the General Assembly, Forsyth County would make up 51% of the population of the new 12th District.
Prominent Democrats were quick to say on Thursday that the maps will be challenged in court. In fact, one lawsuit is already in the hopper.
The state NAACP and others sued in state court last week, challenging the Republican refusal to consider race-based data in drawing legislative districts. Other litigation is likely ahead.
Dinan said litigants may also argue that the districts will result in a congressional delegation that is more Republican than the voting patterns of the state as a whole, he said.
“These second type of lawsuits would not have any chance of success in federal court, because the U.S. Supreme Court has said that partisan gerrymandering cases will no longer be successful in federal court,” Dinan said. “But they would have a chance of success in state court, where Democrats enjoy a 4-3 advantage on the state supreme court.”
Analysts said Thursday that the new maps would likely give Republicans at least two more U.S. House seats and help the GOP retain its state legislative majorities. The congressional boundaries contain a new 14th seat that the state earned because of its growth between 2010 and 2020.
Republicans said the process wasn’t overtly partisan, and that they did not try to dilute minority voting. Redistricting committees barred the use in the state’s redistricting software of partisan data like election results and race-based data in evaluating results.
But Democrats Dan Besse and Terri LeGrand, who gave Republicans a tough challenge in a couple General Assembly contests in Forsyth County in 2020, charged that the new maps are anything but fair.
LeGrand challenged incumbent Joyce Krawiec in Senate District 31, winning the Forsyth County part of the district but losing Davie County and holding Krawiec to 53% of the total vote.
If Krawiec had run in 2020 in her new district lines, she would have most likely walked away with a large victory, according to an analysis by a Journal reporter.
“I think that district was definitely drawn to keep Joyce Krawiec safe,” LeGrand said. “It has all of Stokes and that doughnut around Winston-Salem.” LeGrand said that Krawiec, as a member of the Senate redistricting committee, had friends who “wanted to make sure she had a seat she could win easily.”
Krawiec said she’s happy with her new district but that she “didn’t go near the maps” during their preparation. She had no comment on LeGrand’s accusations, but added that her own district has been different “in almost every election cycle.”
Besse, a former member of the Winston-Salem City Council, came within 1,300 votes of winning the GOP-leaning 74th N.C. House District in 2020, a contest won by Jeff Zenger with 51% of the vote.
The new 74th is mostly the same as in 2020, but loses several precincts that Besse carried in 2020, and picks up one that votes heavily Republican.
“It is clear that their intent was to take a district that was leaning Republican and shift it into the category of likely Republican,” Besse said. “It was clear all along that this Republican leadership was not going to make any effort to draw fair maps.”
Zenger could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
Elsewhere in Forsyth, Districts 71 and 72 are likely to continue favoring Democrats, while the 75th District will continue to tilt Republican. District 91, which enters Forsyth County from Stokes County to the north, will be GOP-leaning district.
The new district boundaries “double-bunk” some members, putting them into the same district as another incumbent.
On the congressional map, Rep. Ted Budd, a Davie County Republican who represents the 13th District, now finds himself in a new 10th District that is also the home of current 8th District Rep. Richard Hudson Jr., who is also a Republican.
In the state House, two area Republicans, Lee Zachary of Yadkin County (now representing District 73) and Julia Howard of Davie County (now representing District 77) find themselves together in a new 77th District.
Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield of Wilson, who represents northeastern North Carolina and a former Congressional Black Caucus chair, called the new districts “extreme, extreme gerrymandering.”
“Not only does it give Republicans a partisan advantage, it also disadvantages African American communities all across North Carolina,” he said. “And so it’s unacceptable.”
The Princeton Gerrymandering Project, which claims to do a nonpartisan analysis of congressional and state house districts from all over the country, gave the North Carolina General Assembly an “F” for its redistricting results, asserting that the state is giving the GOP a “significant Republican advantage” with all three maps.
The project estimated that Republicans should win about 70 of the state’s 120 House seats and 30 of the 50 Senate seats. Republicans currently hold a 69-51 seat advantage in the House and 28-22 margin in the Senate.
“I’m not considering political data, electoral data, in the drafting of these maps, so I have no idea what their outcome is going to be,” said Rep. Destin Hall, a Caldwell County Republican and House Redistricting Committee chairman. Mapmakers said they complied with other redistricting criteria such as minimizing the number of counties that are divided between districts and the municipalities that are split.
But Democrats said it’s obvious Republicans ignored pleas from the public for a congressional plan that reflects the state’s 50-50 political environment.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.