The view from my office window overlooking South McDowell Street in downtown Raleigh goes a long way - clear into another congressional district.
The map on lame duck U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge's official website shows his 2nd District on the east side of McDowell where The N&O's building sits. Across the street lies the 13th District, domain of Rep. Brad Miller.
Now, the 2nd District is not exactly a thing of beautiful symmetry. On a macro scale it wanders from Henderson to Fayetteville to Siler City with an odd protuberance into Wake County.
Just within a few blocks of The N&O, its boundary zigs west over to Dawson Street, then zags east toward the Capitol along Hillsborough. The Capitol itself is in the 13th, the map indicates, but the 2nd District takes in a goodly chunk of Raleigh's core, including the upper three blocks of Fayetteville Street and the City Market area.
N.C. State University? Mostly in the 2nd, even though to get there from downtown you'd traverse a weird outcropping of the 13th.
Such are the quirks and absurdities of these district boundaries - drawn for the convenience and protection of officeholders in the map-drawers' party, which last time around was the Democrats - that if Brad Miller had wanted to have the Mecca restaurant or Clyde Cooper's barbecue joint in his district, that surely could have been arranged.
But Etheridge no doubt was glad to have them - because in the same package came the customarily reliable Democratic votes of Southeast Raleigh.
Put those urban votes together with those from people scattered across his home county of Harnett and other places where Etheridge gained popularity during three decades in elective office and he had a formula for success, even in a region where the late Republican Sen. Jesse Helms used to make loads of hay. Even in a region once known as a last redoubt of the Klan.
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