There are 13, count ’em, 13 Cogressional races on North Carolina’s card this year, most of them longshots for the challengers. Here’s the rundown, by congressional district:
District 1: In this heavily Democratic district that includes Rocky Mount, Kinston, New Bern, Roanoke Rapids and Henderson, incumbent G. K. Butterfield drew no challenger.
District 2: A chunk of Raleigh, along with Sanford, Dunn, Clinton, Smithfield and Spring Lake make up a conservative but Democratic-leaning district. Incumbent Democrat Bob Etheridge looks safe. His opponent, Dan Mansell, is campaigning but way behind.
District 3: Some of the state’s richest and poorest coastal counties make up the third district, along with Greenville, Morehead City and the military towns of Jacksonville and Havelock. With a huge number of active and retired military personnel, this is a district where veterans’ affairs and constituent services are almost synonymous. Incumbent Walter B. Jones Jr. has managed to do something envied by most politicos of any stripecall for withdrawal from Iraq and deflect any charge he’s soft on terror. Democrat Craig Weber, a former Marine and TV anchor, hasn’t gotten a lot of traction.
District 4: The moderate havens of Cary, Apex and Fuquay-Varina are swamped by Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough and Durhamthe bluest of the state’s blue dots. If Democrats take the house, Rep. David Price would likely become a committee chair. His challenger, Steve Acuff, is more active than some of his predecessors, but isn’t likely to break 35 percent.
District 5: This one stretches from Boone to Kernersville, from Statesville to Mount Airy. Incumbent Republican Virginia Foxx, tied closely to the Bush administration, has had a bumpy campaign, and challenger Roger Sharpe has seen a steady growth in momentum. A lot of the netroot pundits are saying this one could tip, and even some of the old school say first-termer Foxx could be swept away if the Democratic tide is big enough. But this is a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats. Oddly, it may all hinge on Mayberry.
District 6: Asheboro, Southern Pines, Burlington and Guilford (minus Greensboro) make up this Republican stronghold. Eleven-term incumbent Howard Coble has a firm lead and is highlighting the daylight between himself and the Bush administration. Challenger Rory Blake, a retired pharmacist, may have some momentum, but my hound, who is from this district, says Coble is far from treed.
District 7: Wilmington, Lumberton and Fayetteville are the metroplexes in this largely rural district, and incumbent Democrat Mike McIntyre has played it conservative of late as one of only two N.C. Dems to vote for the terrorism detainee act. He’s comfortably in the lead against Shirley Davis of Clinton, who seems to be running a “God Bless America”-themed campaign.
District 8: From Laurinburg to Kannapolis and Concord, the 8th District is hurting from the decline in textiles and other manufacturing. So is incumbent Republican Robin Hayes, who has been dogged with a grassroots challenger who’s caught fire. Come Tuesday night first week in November, you’ll hear the name Larry Kissell as the networks try to gauge the size of the aforementioned Democratic tide.
District 9: Sue Myrick, challenged by Democrat Bill Glass, decided not to run for governor. Glass has been hitting her hard on her support of Bush on Iraq, but Myrick’s comfortable suburban Republican district surrounding Charlotte will dutifully send her back to D.C. again.
District 10: The furniture towns of Lenoir, Hickory and Morganton are hurting just like the textile towns to the east, but unlike Robin Hayes, incumbent Republican Patrick McHenry doesn’t have a strong enough opponent to tap into that. He beats Richard Carsner, but the increasingly unlikable McHenry is probably toast in a GOP primary in ’08.
District 11: Television, robo-call and mailing money is pouring into this race. If I lived in Asheville, Hendersonville or Waynesville, I would vote early and go on vacation. Incumbent Charles Taylor is going to fight like mad to keep his seat. But Democrat Heath Shuler is proving to be a solid campaigner in the air and on the ground. Quarterback keeper for the win.
District 12: The I-85 district that runs from Winston-Salem to Charlotte has belonged to Mel Watt since it was drawn up. Challenger Ada Fisher doesn’t have enough gas for the drive.
District 13: This Greensboro-Roxboro-Raleigh district offers the strangest race in the country with out-of-district-challenger Vernon Robinson giving everyone a case of the icks at a recent debate. Unfortunately, incumbent Brad Miller has to take a well-funded crackpot seriously. Miller wins this and the tally for Robinson mirrors the number of voters with either no clue or no shame.