Haste makes waste! State legislature proposes bizarre, new House districts

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County dangles on a thread, separated by vast stretches of open water from new legislative brethren


‘The birds in Pamlico County are well-represented,’ jokes Commissioner Delamar, ‘because they can fly!’
Long joined at the hip with Craven, Pamlico now forced into bed with unfamiliar faces in rush to obey court order

A public hearing Tuesday afternoon, held at Beaufort County Community College, attracted a large crowd, with many complaining that the new redistricting maps had been pushed through far too quickly – with a minimum of citizen input taken into account.

BAYBORO – Pamlico County officials were livid Monday night after taking an early gander at new legislative maps – quickly drawn by the General Assembly – to comply with a federal court ruling that the GOP-dominated General Assembly implemented “unconstitutional racial gerrymanders in its 2011 districting plans.”

County Commissioner Paul Delamar III, quickly summarized the board’s unanimous resolution, which called upon the General Assembly to rethink its move.

“We have more influence with the current situation,” said Delamar. “Please, you all, put us back with Craven.”

State officials have known for more than a year that this Day of Reckoning might come, but instead chose to pursue futile appeals of the original decision – always a time-consuming process. As recently as July 31, little had been done. Then, the U.S. District Court for North Carolina lowered the boom, proclaiming in an 11-page ultimatum: “The General Assembly shall have until 5 p.m. on September 1, 2017, to enact new House and Senate districting plans remedying the constitutional deficiencies with the Subject Districts.”

Needless to say, the scramble came quickly. Insiders describe a messy process, with all types of potential, and unintended, consequences

Despite the local opposition, Pamlico County seems bound for House District 6, with the likes of Currituck, Dare, and Hyde Counties – where the incumbent representative, Beverly Boswell, a Republican residing on the Outer Banks, is all but unknown to Pamlico County voters. Currently, Republican Michael Speciale represents Pamlico County in the State House but his geographic footprint dramatically shrinks in the new maps – to be confined mostly to southeast Craven.

Incumbent State Sen. Norm Sanderson ( R ) is fortunate in that he will see little, if any, change to his district – unlike his counterpart to the north, State Sen. Bill Cook ( R ).

Like Sanderson, Cook is known as a conservative Republican – but he now faces the prospect of campaigning across decidedly new territory – and likely bumping heads with another incumbent. In fact, Joe McClees, a paid lobbyist who represents Pamlico County in the General Assembly, candidly described the strange repercussions in a recent e-mail to elected officials:

“There are dramatic changes proposed for our region,” wrote McClees. “For example, Beaufort County would be included in a newly configured Senate District #3, with Martin, Bertie, Northampton, Warren, and Vance Counties.  Senator Bill Cook, who presently represents District 1, resides in Beaufort County.  Senator Erica Smith-Ingram resides in Northampton County.  They would be “double bunked” under the proposed plan.”