North Carolina Republicans have jockeyed for more influence in Washington and, thanks to carefully drawn districts by state lawmakers, all but one GOP incumbent is positioned to return to the U.S. House of Representatives after November’s election.
Of North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts, 10 are considered safe seats for Republicans. Three have a majority of Democratic voters.
Most national polling suggests Republicans will keep their House majority, though some worry their numbers will take a hit if voters disaffected by presidential nominee Donald Trump stay home. Even if Republicans win the White House, it’s uncertain how Trump would work with GOP House leaders. He’s sharply and repeatedly criticized fellow Republicans and declared himself “unshackled” from the party.
Still, Reps. Virginia Foxx, Patrick McHenry and others interviewed by McClatchy this month all say they expect Trump would back their legislative agenda. No North Carolina Republican in Congress has rescinded an endorsement of Trump even as others publicly denounce and ditch the nominee.
Several members of North Carolina’s Republican delegation have worked to wield influence in various ways over the past six years of GOP dominance in the U.S. House.
“North Carolina punches way above its weight,” said Foxx, a Republican from Watauga County. “It puts you in a position of being able to influence legislation.”
Foxx is the eighth-highest-ranking elected Republican of the 435 members in the House. As secretary to her party’s conference, she’s the second-most-powerful North Carolinian in the majority, behind McHenry, who’s from Denver. McHenry is an appointed Republican chief deputy whip.
Among the state’s three Democrats, Rep. G.K. Butterfield is the outgoing chairman of the influential Congressional Black Caucus and Rep. David Price is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee. Rep. Alma Adams, a freshman, has no such leadership role, but she founded the Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges and Universities Caucus as a way to draw attention to those issues.
N.C. Republicans working to shape their party’s agenda include:
▪ Rep. Mark Meadows from Cashiers – the only North Carolinian on the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus.
▪ Rep. George Holding from Raleigh – a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which makes decisions on tax legislation. Holding is the first North Carolinian on the committee in about three decades.
▪ Rep. David Rouzer from Benson – who snagged an Agriculture subcommittee chairmanship as a freshman lawmaker.
▪ Rep. Renee Ellmers from Dunn – outgoing Republican Women’s Policy Committee chair.
Ellmers is the only congressional incumbent in North Carolina who lost in a primary this year.
North Carolina’s 13 House seats are considered safe for either Republicans or Democrats, with one possible exception this year, said Michael Bitzer, provost and political science professor at Catawba College. Reshuffling, caused by court-ordered redistricting earlier this year, left the new District 13 without an incumbent.
Holding – the current District 13 representative – no longer lives in the district and now seeks re-election in Ellmers’ District 2. Ellmers lost to Holding in the primary, leaving him to face Democrat John McNeil.
In other races, nine incumbent Republicans appear to be on strong footing.
If successful, North Carolina conservatives could spread their influence even farther next term.
McHenry expects Rep. Mark Walker, from Greensboro, to be the next leader of the Republican Study Committee, made up of conservative lawmakers who push for less federal spending and a simplified tax code. Foxx is positioned to take the helm of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
North Carolina Republican lawmakers have individual styles and represent a “big tent” party, said Dee Stewart, a Republican consultant in Raleigh. From Meadows’ hard-nosed Freedom Caucus to steady leadership figures like Foxx and McHenry, multiple wings of the Republican Party can coexist and collaborate, Stewart said.
“Various elements within the Republican Party are important in creating a nationally vibrant party,” he said. “Politics is the art of addition.”
The basics on NC’s 13 U.S. House races
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, from Wilson, is running for his seventh term in District 1. The Democrat faces one opponent: H. Powell Dew Jr., a Republican of Greenville, who is a Baptist pastor and former shipping supervisor.
Dew – whose campaign yard signs borrow concepts from Mountain Dew soft drink branding – says he supports marriage only between a man and woman, is against abortion and wants the federal government to relinquish more power to states. A Libertarian candidate, C.L. Cooke, did not make it onto the general election ballot.
District 1 is in the northeastern portion of the state and made up of several counties, including Halifax, Martin and Warren. The district also includes Durham, Henderson and several other cities along the Virginia border.
District 2 hosted one of North Carolina’s most-watched Republican primaries this year as two incumbents faced off after court-ordered redistricting forced competition. U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-Dunn, represents District 2 in Congress but lost her re-election bid after U.S. Rep. George Holding, R-Raleigh, decided to run in the redrawn District 2.
Holding, a former U.S. attorney from Raleigh, will finish his current term in Congress as representative from District 13. He’s seeking a third term in District 2 and has one challenger: Democrat John McNeil, a Marine veteran and attorney from Raleigh.
McNeil supports a constitutional amendment to negate the Citizens United campaign finance court ruling, favors government revisions to support farmers and objects to efforts to “privatize” Social Security.
This district is home to several southern Raleigh suburbs as well as Wake Forest, much of Franklin County and part of Nash County.
U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, from Farmville, performed better in his Republican primary this year than many expected and now faces one challenger in the 3rd District. Jones, who was first elected in 1994 to the House, caucuses with Republicans in Congress but often breaks rank on votes.
He faces Democratic challenger Ernest Reeves, who has made two previous unsuccessful bids for the U.S. Senate.
District 3 is made up of a large swath of coastal North Carolina and includes Elizabeth City, Jacksonville, Kinston and New Bern.
Raleigh and Chapel Hill dominate the 4th District – one of the smallest congressional districts, in terms of geography, in the state. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. David Price, from Chapel Hill, has served 28 years in Congress.
He faces Republican challenger Sue Googe, who is a software engineer and owns a real estate investment company in Cary.
The 4th Congressional District also includes all of Orange County.
The district comprises Winston-Salem, Boone, Wilkesboro and all or part of 12 counties in the northwest corner of the state.
Brannon has criticized Foxx’s opposition to federal legislation that would require companies to pay women equally to men for the same work. Foxx has served as a vocal member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, regularly criticizing what she and other Republicans have called excessive regulations from President Barack Obama’s administration.
U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican preacher from Greensboro, is seeking a second term. Walker faces Pete Glidewell, who was the only Democrat to file in the race. Glidewell, from Elon, is a Vietnam War veteran and businessman.
The 6th Congressional District is centrally located in the state and comprises Alamance, Caswell, Chatham, Randolph, Rockingham counties and several others.
Casteen, from Wilmington, is an attorney and certified public accountant. He first ran against Rouzer in 2014 as a Libertarian candidate. He placed third in that election, behind a Democratic challenger.
The 7th Congressional District comprises Brunswick, Duplin, Pender and New Hanover counties and others. By geography, District 7 is one of the largest in the state, in North Carolina’s southeastern corner.
The district includes areas north of Charlotte, like Kannapolis, China Grove and Concord. District 8 stretches across south-central North Carolina to include Fort Bragg, Pinehurst and Albemarle.
Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, from Charlotte, is running for a third term against Democrat Christian Cano, also from Charlotte. Pittenger squeaked by in his June primary, carrying only Mecklenburg County and coming in last place of three candidates in District 9’s other seven counties.
All or parts of eight counties belong to North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. District 9 stretches from southern Mecklenburg County to a western portion of Bladen County, covering a narrow stretch of south-central North Carolina along the border with South Carolina. The district includes the localities of Monroe, Rockingham and Pembroke, along the Hwy. 74 corridor.
The 10th Congressional District is in Western North Carolina and includes Asheville, Black Mountain, Rutherfordton, Shelby and Gastonia.
Seven-term Republican U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, from Denver, is challenged by Democratic candidate Andy Millard, a former teacher and financial adviser who recently sold an investment firm in Polk County to run for Congress.
Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, from Cashiers, seeks re-election after winning a primary in June with no competition. Meadows now faces challenger Rick Bryson, a Democrat from Bryson City.
Meadows is a former restaurant owner, first elected to Congress is 2012. Bryson, an elected alderman in Bryson City, has heavily criticized Meadows in relation to an ongoing congressional ethics investigation of his office.
The 11th Congressional District includes many Western North Carolina counties such as Caldwell, Cherokee, Jackson, Haywood and Henderson. The district no longer includes Asheville.
The redrawn 12th Congressional District includes Mecklenburg County. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, a Democrat who has represented the Greensboro area since her first election in 2014, recently moved to Charlotte.
She faces Republican challenger Leon Threatt, a former Marine and police officer, from Charlotte.
This Statesville and High Point district is the only one in North Carolina that’s on the ballot this year without an incumbent.
Newcomer Republican Ted Budd, backed by the conservative group Club for Growth, won his primary in the district in a crowded field of 17 candidates. Bruce Davis, a Guilford County commissioner, won the Democratic primary.
District 13 was formerly home to Raleigh but was moved west and changed dramatically after redistricting.
Meet local candidates
Education: N.C. Central University, N.C. Central School of Law
Professional experience: Civil rights attorney, N.C. Superior Court, state Supreme Court
Political résumé: Six terms, U.S. House
Family: Two adult daughters
H. Powell Dew Jr.
Education: Campbell University Divinity School; UNC Chapel Hill
Professional experience: Baptist pastor, shipping supervisor, college instructor
Political résumé: Town of Stantonsburg board member
Family: Married with one child, one stepchild
Education: Wake Forest University
Professional experience: U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina
Political résumé: Two terms, U.S. House
Family: Married with four children – three girls, one son
Education: UNC-Wilmington; Wake Forest Law School
Professional experience: Lawyer
Political résumé: First run for office
Family: Two adult children, two grandchildren
Education: UNC Chapel Hill; Yale University
Professional experience: College professor, Duke and Yale universities
Political résumé: 28 years, U.S. House; past chairman and executive director, N.C. Democratic Party
Family: Married with two adult children
Education: Wake Tech Community College; UNC Chapel Hill
Professional experience: Software engineer; real estate business owner
Political résumé: First-time candidate
Family: Husband and dog
Education: Piedmont Baptist College (now Piedmont International University)
Professional experience: Baptist minister; sales
Political résumé: One term, U.S. House
Family: Married with three children
Education: UNC School of Business; Davidson College
Professional experience: Sales and marketing
Political résumé: Chairman, Alamance County Democratic Party
Family: Married with five children