Democratic Rep. Alma Adams said Friday she has decided to seek reelection, despite the North Carolina legislature’s approval of a proposed redistricting plan that would shift her entire congressional district to Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, 90 miles from her Greensboro home.
“We’re going to make sure that we work hard and win it,” she said in a phone interview.
If the remap is upheld, Adams could face a stiff challenge in the Democratic primary that’s been delayed until June 7, because any rivals who live in the city of Charlotte can point to her residence an hour and a half away. Some local Queen City politicians may have backing from loyal blocs of voters.
A day earlier, Adams had hedged on what she would do as the Republican-dominated state legislature moved toward adoption of the remap under a tight deadline from a federal court panel. That panel ruled Feb. 5 that Adams’ mostly African-American district and another to the east were so racially gerrymandered as to violate the Constitution.
On Friday, she said she had “done a lot of thinking” and would notify more than two dozen supporters she would run regardless of the sudden geographic obstacle. Federal law allows any state resident to run in any congressional district, regardless of where he or she lives.
The new boundaries still must pass muster with the court panel or could be put on hold if, as N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory and the legislature prefer, Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court grants a stay to delay their effective date. In that case, Adams would run in her current 12th Congressional District.
More than half a dozen candidates have announced plans to run from long distance. If the remap stands, the number could grow. The latest would be Republican Rep. George Holding, who represents the current 13th District in Raleigh. If he ran where he lives under the redistricting, Holding would face Democratic Rep. David Price in the Democratic-leaning 4th District.
Instead, Holding’s campaign said he will run in the new 2nd District in central North Carolina, which would include much of his current district but is represented by fellow Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers.
Another Republican, Albert Wiley Jr., lives on a barrier island off the coast of southeastern North Carolina, but he filed to run in the 13th Congressional District.
On a map, Adams’ current district looks ribbon-like, covering about half of Charlotte and stretching along Interstate 85 to Greensboro and Winston-Salem, where her support has been the strongest. Her new district is limited to Charlotte and Mecklenburg, covering all but a southern slice of the city and county. According to data from the legislature, 51 percent of its residents are African Americans and 51 percent of registered voters are Democrats.
Adams shrugged off the dramatic change on Friday, noting that she’s “a hard worker” who served 11 terms in the state House, nine years on the Greensboro City Council, two years on the school board, all while holding outside teaching jobs.
Campaigning is not new to me, working hard is not new to me. But I intend to do what it takes to represent the people that I've been elected to serve in the 12th District.
Democratic Rep. Alma Adams
“I cannot forget that I’ve actually won four elections in the 12th District,” she said.
She is technically correct. In the general election on Nov. 4, 2014, her name appeared twice on the ballot – once for the general election and once for a special election to immediately fill the seat vacated 10 months earlier when President Barack Obama tapped Rep. Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
By taking office weeks before other incoming freshmen House members, Adams gained seniority, a factor that she said is a strong argument for her reelection.
“I don’t think Charlotte should be sent to the back of the line in seniority and influence,” she said. “And that’s really how things work in Congress.”
Two Charlotte politicians who lost to Adams in the 2014 primary elections, state Rep. Rodney Moore and former state Sen. Malcolm Graham, have expressed interest in running if the remap takes effect.
Adams noted that before the remap, no one from Charlotte had filed to challenge her in the primary and that she “overwhelmingly” won the general election.
“Not only have we traveled a lot of miles,” she said, “but we have continued to receive consistent support from Charlotte since I’ve taken office.”
Anna Douglas of McClatchy’s Washington Bureau and the Raleigh News & Observer contributed to this article.