The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday February 1st

Wake County Likely To Get New District

The 2000 U.S. Census results granted North Carolina a 13th congressional district because of the state's population growth in the past decade.

Census results showed that North Carolina's population increased by 21.4 percent. The Triangle's total population increased by almost 50 percent.

But plans for the district's location have yet to be finalized, said Rep. Ed McMahan, R-Mecklenburg, who chairs the N.C. House's Redistricting Committee.

"We really have done very little because we've been focusing on the budget," McMahan said. He added that he thinks the Wake County area is the most probable spot for the new district.

"It's the fastest growing part of the state," he said. "(The district) is very compact. If it was in the mountains there would be far fewer people. It's going to be southern Wake County going south or northern Wake County going north."

But some have expressed concern that the creation of a new district in Wake County could change the balance of power between the state's two primary parties.

The N.C. delegation to the U.S. House now includes seven Republicans and five Democrats.

Brad Woodhouse, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-N.C., who currently represents most of Wake County, said the congressman has expressed a strong desire to maintain as much as his district's vote as possible.

"He thinks it's in the best interest of himself and the best interest of his party to keep a strong, safe district," Woodhouse said. "He wants to see the incumbent Democrats be re-elected, that's his first priority."

But N.C. Republican Party Chairman Bill Cobey said he thinks the new district has the potential to favor Republican candidates.

"I think we'll come out very well," he said. "I think if anything our incumbent may end up with more favorable districts."

He added that he thinks a strong candidate can win any district, regardless of precedent.

"I expect the Democratic General Assembly to draw a district that leans Democrat, but I also know that if we have the right candidate, we may have a chance of winning that district," Cobey said, adding that he was elected to Congress in the mid-1980s from a Democratic district.

But Rep. Howard Lee, D-Orange, a member of the N.C. Senate's Redistricting Committee, stressed that a small district would increase communication between candidates and their constituents over partisan competition.

"I think what a third district in the Triangle area could do is create a small area for someone running," Lee said.

"It will increase contact between the candidates and the ever-growing population, an increasingly hard thing to handle."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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