UPDATE: Reives tweeted Saturday afternoon that he plans to continue representing Chatham County, and welcomed he Durham precincts to District 54, indicating there won’t be an electoral matchup between him and Sauls in 2018.
Lee County is whole again under a Republican proposal to redraw North Carolina’s legislative districts, but its two representatives – Democrat Robert Reives II (District 54) and Republican John Sauls (District 51) – are now double bunked.
Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) announced the Republican majority’s redistricting proposal on Twitter Saturday afternoon. Lee County was split into two House districts – 51, encompassing about half of Sanford, most of Lee County, and parts of western and northern Harnett; and 54, which lumped the other half of the Sanford city limits and a portion of Lee County along 15-501 in with the rest of Chatham County – for the first time in 2011’s redistricting effort.
Since then, 51 has changed hands twice – friend of the Rant and Republican Mike Stone lost to Democrat Brad Salmon (subscription required) in 2014, who was defeated by Sauls (subscription required) last year. In 54, Democrat Deb McManus of Chatham County was elected in 2012 and resigned following an embezzlement scandal a year later. Reives, a Sanford attorney, was selected as her replacement and elected to full terms in 2014 and 2016. He was named the number two Democrat in the House last year.
Of counties surrounding Lee, only Chatham remains whole. The new District 54 would encompass all of Chatham and a small part of Durham. Harnett is split among three districts – 51, 53 (held by Lewis) and 28, which includes most of Johnston County. Moore is split between District 52 and District 78, which includes a large part of Randolph County.
It’s hard to know what electoral impact the proposal would have on Lee County without having voter registration data for the new boundaries. Adding city of Sanford precincts back and losing northern Harnett precincts would seem to be favorable for Democrats, but the addition of southwest Harnett precincts around Spring Lake and Anderson Creek means the district also adds a large number of Republican-friendly voters in close proximity to Fort Bragg. The district as it currently stands tends to lean Republican.
A state court ordered the General Assembly to redraw House and Senate maps by Sept. 1 after they were declared unconstitutional.
It was unclear if a Senate proposal was also released Saturday. Republican Sen. Ron Rabin currently represents District 12, which encompasses all of Lee and Harnett counties, as well as part of Johnston County.