Two state House members placed into the same district by the recently completed redistricting process appear set to face each other in a Republican primary election next March.
State Rep. Jamie Boles, who won a seventh term for the District 52 seat last year, and Rep. Ben Moss, who first won election last year to House District 66 are at least two candidates planning to vie in the recently redrawn District 52 seat.
The redistricting process approved last week by the General Assembly shifts that district a bit south, encompassing all of southern Moore County, the most densely populated area, and Richmond County.
On Tuesday, Boles said he plans to run again for the seat. On Thursday, Moss issued a statement saying he too would compete for the seat.
“After several weeks of fervent prayer and consideration with my family, I’m humbled to announce that we are running for re-election to continue serving the people of District 52 in the NC House,” said Moss, “The people of our community deserve a strong conservative voice who will fight for their freedom, defend their rights, and honor our shared values. That is what we’ve done in our first term, and we look forward to extending our reach, delivering on our Republican principles to the people of Moore County.”
“We are incredibly grateful for all of our friends and supporters in southern Moore County for reaching out with their encouragement to run for re-election,” said Moss. “It has been the greatest honor of my life to receive the trust and confidence of our neighbors and to serve as their voice in Raleigh, and we look forward to continuing to improve The Sandhills through our support of public safety, infrastructure enhancements, economic development, and quality education, free from ‘woke’ indoctrination.”
Moss is a Rockingham native. In 2020, Moss became the first Republican to represent Richmond County in the NC House.
Republican State Sen. Tom McInnis announced Thursday he plans to seek re-election to the newly drawn Senate district representing Moore County.
McInnis, a longtime Richmond County resident, had to move to a home in Pinehurst in order to establish residency within the district, whose boundaries changed through the redistricting process.
The General Assembly last week approved new maps for the House and Senate. Moore previously had been in a district with parts of Richmond County, but the new District 21 eliminates Richmond and adds parts of Cumberland County. McInnis owns property in both counties.
McInnis has represented Moore County since 2019, when the district lines were last changed as a result of a court order.
“Over the past few weeks, as Janice and I thought and prayed about the future, we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from friends across Moore and Cumberland counties,” McInnis said. “It’s clear that this region wants a strong, conservative state senator and it would be my honor to represent the 21st district in Raleigh.”
McInnis, who was unanimously elected Senate Majority Whip by his peers in just his fourth term, is one of only a handful of state lawmakers in the United States to earn an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association.
He has scored high ratings from several other conservative organizations.
As chairman of the powerful Senate Transportation Committee, McInnis has delivered funding for critical local infrastructure. And he was a lead negotiator in the 2020 agreement to bring the United States Golf Association’s headquarters to Pinehurst.
McInnis is a professional auctioneer and entrepreneur who built and ran local businesses for the past 40 years. His wife, Janice is a retired teacher and also a native North Carolinian. They have four children and 11 grandchildren.
Maurice Holland Jr. laughed ruefully when he heard that a Republican Senate redistricting leader used Holland’s comments to justify a newly drawn congressional district.
The district, which includes part of the Sandhills, that Republicans drew is the opposite of what Holland wanted.
“It’s a farce,” Holland said in an interview with Policy Watch.
This week, Sen. Warren Daniel, one of his chamber’s redistricting chairmen, mentioned the names of 10 people whose comments he said were considered when drawing congressional districts.
Policy Watch interviewed four of those people. Three said that their comments were distorted and taken out of context to support a bad map. A fourth said his comment was not about the congressional map but did not object Daniel mentioning it or to the redistricting plan.
Legislators received thousands of comments on congressional, state House, and state Senate redistricting plans.
Daniel said Wednesday that all the redistricting chairmen and staff “viewed some of the comments and picked out some of the ones that jumped out at us” and which were representative of other people’s comments.
Daniel shrugged when asked about people who said their comments were misused.
“I don’t know if there is something to say to that,” he said.
Daniel, a Morganton Republican and GOP map sponsor, used Holland’s comment to bolster a plan for congressional districts that includes what Daniel called a “Sandhills district.”
The Sandhills region of the state is south of Raleigh and includes counties that border South Carolina.
Holland said in an interview that what he described as a Sandhills district is not what Republicans drew. Cumberland County would be important to a Sandhills district, Holland said, but the Republican map doesn’t include it. And Holland doesn’t consider a Sandhills district to be one that extends into southeastern Mecklenburg County, like the one Republicans created.
“They took what we said and did the opposite,” said Holland, chairman of the Moore County Democratic Party.
Republicans rejected redistricting ideas from Democrats that came to public votes.
Republicans rejected maps that included Sandhills districts that Holland preferred. The Senate redistricting committee voted down a map that Democratic Sen. Ben Clark of Hoke County proposed. Republicans didn’t allow floor debate on a map offered by Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, a Wake County Democrat.
Have GOP lawmakers mended their ways?
The state is required to draw new congressional and legislative district boundaries after each census to account for population shifts and growth. Districts must have populations that are about equal. They are to avoid dividing counties. Republican legislators devised redistricting criteria that allow communities with natural connections be kept together.
Repeated lawsuits and court losses have forced state lawmakers to correct unconstitutional defects.
Republicans this year have taken pains to say that they are drawing maps differently than in the past and have abandoned practices that got them in trouble with the courts.
They are also careful about what they say in public, knowing their statements will become part of lawsuits. On occasion, lawmakers read from scripts, and Republicans tended to give repetitive answers to questions.
Republicans said they created maps only on terminals in committee rooms where the public could watch, and did not use outside consultants. They have said repeatedly that they did not take into account racial or partisan data, because over the last decade courts have rejected their plans as racial or partisan gerrymanders.
Democrats, however, insisted that legislators need a study of racially polarized voting. Such a study would reveal whether legislators need to draw federal Voting Rights Act districts. VRA districts, as they’re called, are those in which Black voters would have the chance to elect candidates of their choice. Republicans said ‘no’ to the study and no to drawing the VRA districts.
A revealing federal court opinion issued in January 2018 described how Republicans two years earlier had asked the public to comment on congressional redistricting maps, only to ignore what people said.
Deposition testimony described how legislative the then-redistricting chairmen, Republicans David Lewis in the House and Bob Rucho in the Senate, met privately with Republican redistricting guru Thomas Hofeller. They told him to create maps that would elect 10 Republicans and three Democrats to the state’s congressional delegation.
Hofeller had the maps drawn before the public hearing and before the deadline for written comments, the court order said.
“Because Dr. Hofeller finished drawing the 2016 Plan before the public hearing and the opening of the window for members of the public to submit written comments,” [information taken from a Hofeller deposition] “the 2016 Plan did not reflect any public input,” the order said.
“Cherry-picking public comments”
It’s possible to read public comments and still misrepresent them.
In a Monday committee meeting, Daniel mentioned a comment from Martha Shafer while describing a new congressional district. Shafer said at a public hearing that the city of High Point should be kept whole.
Martha Shafer jumped on Twitter when she heard her public hearing comments were used to justify a redistricting map she called “horrific.”
“Cherry-picking public comments in bad faith to support gerrymandered maps further undermines democracy,” she wrote.
She said in an interview that she did talk about keeping High Point whole in a state House map – not a congressional map. Shafer ran for a state House seat in 2018 as a Democrat, but said her days as a candidate are behind her. It was running that campaign that made her interested in how High Point is treated in redistricting plans.
But her emphasis throughout was on keeping Guilford and Forsyth counties, and the cities that form the Piedmont Triad (Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point), together in a single district. Shafer has commented on redistricting in person and in writing.
In a written comment she said, “Guilford County has a long history of being split by congressional districts. Frankly, at times it was extremely confusing for residents to know who their representative was. In addition to being confusing, it was ineffective. The last time we were split between congressional districts (13 & 6) many residents in our urban and suburban areas felt our concerns were not heard at all by either representative. No amount of phone calls, meetings or emails to our representatives produced results. They were attentive to the voices of the constituents in the rural areas, but not to us. We were frustrated because our needs were ignored.
“The current congressional map — the one in place right now — does not split Guilford County and keeps Greensboro, High Point and Winston Salem together. It’s great! Our voices are finally being heard.”
The Republican congressional map that legislators are approving this week does not preserve that situation. Guilford and Forsyth are in different districts, and Guilford is split into three pieces.
Shafer said in an interview that Daniel used a small portion of what she said to justify something she opposes.
“He did not look at the totality of my comments,” she said. Daniel “took my Forsyth County testimony and cherry-picked just a couple of words from that to make it appear that I support this map when this is exactly what I thought should not happen. It’s ironic that he would use my name to associate with a map that I think is horrific.”
Likewise, Liz Voss of Huntersville said her comments about three northern Mecklenburg towns were distorted to justify a plan meant to elect as many Republicans as possible.
In the map, northern Mecklenburg and the county’s western edge form a crescent. It’s part of a district that includes counties to the west.
“I never ever, ever, ever, ever would have told them what they pulled in,” said Voss. “This was just to say, ‘Oh, we listened.’ They didn’t listen at all.”
Frank Williams said he remembers commenting on a state House district but added that he does not mind Daniel using what he said to support a congressional district.
“I do support this map,” said Williams, who has worked as a Republican campaign consultant.
“They’ve done a pretty remarkable job of grouping communities of interest,” Williams said.
Daniel mentioned that Williams is a Brunswick County commissioner, but Williams said he is not speaking for the county.
“I give them a lot of credit,” Williams said. “It’s a difficult job. There’s already been a lawsuit filed over it. That tells you how that’s going to go.”
Under the legislative maps now headed for approval, it’s possible the General Assembly will have fewer people of color.
This week, Rep. Charles Graham, a Democrat from Robeson County and the only Native American in the legislature, pleaded for changes to the proposed district in that area so it could continue to elect a member of the Lumbee tribe. Graham has announced that he is running for Congress.
“Let’s not undermine the opportunity to have American Indians in this body,” Graham said. “I’m really concerned about that and I hope you’re concerned about that.”
The House did not make the change.
Several newly drawn districts where Black House members live would have narrow Democratic majorities, according to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project — a nonpartisan group that also gave the state’s new congressional, state House, and state Senate redistricting plans “F” grades for partisan fairness.
North Carolinians tend to split their votes about evenly between Democratic and Republican candidates.
The new congressional map has 10 Republican and four Democratic seats, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project determined. The website FiveThirtyEight says the map has 10 Republican, three Democratic, and one highly competitive district. U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat and one of two Black members of Congress from North Carolina, is in the competitive district.
In a video briefing with reporters Wednesday, Duke University mathematician Jonathan Mattingly said the plans show characteristics of gerrymandering.
“We found that the map that has been proposed for the North Carolina House really dramatically under-elects Democrats,” he said. “We have a similar analysis for the Senate.”
The legislature approved all three redistricting plans Thursday. Gov. Roy Cooper does not have the power to veto them.
Here’s a look at the new maps:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lynn BonnerLynn Bonner, Investigative Reporter, joined Policy Watch in October 2020 after 26 years as a reporter at The News & Observer. She covered the state legislature and politics for 20 years, and wrote extensively about mental health, state Medicaid policies and spending, and public education. Before coming to North Carolina, she wrote for newspapers in New England.
County Commissioner Otis Ritter, who has represented northern Moore County on the board for almost 10 years, will not seek re-election next year, opening the way for a new commissioner.
A native and lifelong resident of the Robbins area, Ritter was first appointed to the county board in 2013 to replace Craig Kennedy. Ritter then won election to the District 3 seat the following year, defeating Louis Gregory in a GOP primary. He was re-elected to a second full term in 2018.
Ritter has served as vice chairman of the board, on the Local Emergency Planning Committee, the Fire Commission, the Sandhills Center Area Board, the Nursing and Adult Care Home Community Advisory Committee, and the Utilities Task Force.
He previously served 20 years as chairman of the former county Emergency Services Advisory Committee, which was replaced several years ago by the county Fire Commission, and was a longtime volunteer for the Robbins and High Falls rescue squads.
“I wish I was 18 years old so I could continue to do this,” Ritter said during Tuesday’s meeting, joking that he is not going away quietly. “You will not get rid of me.”
Ritter, the current board’s longest serving member, became emotional in thanking county staff for their support and work toward bettering the community. “You have made it so easy for us to move forward.”
The District 1, District 3 and District 5 seats are up for election in 2022. Commissioner Catherine Graham (District 1) is also not seeking re-election. Commissioner Jerry Daeke (District 5) has not announced his intentions. Each commissioner must live in the district they represent but are elected by voters countywide.
In early October, the county board approved a redrawn residency district map based on updated 2020 census data. As presented, District 1 brings Carthage, Cameron, Whispering Pines and Vass within a single, unified district. District 2 represents Pinehurst, Seven Lakes, Taylortown and the majority of the Eastwood precinct. District 3 encompasses nearly all of the northern end of Moore County. While the redrawn lines expanded the territory from 239 square miles to 341 square miles, it is still the least populated district. District 4 brings all of Southern Pines into a single district. District 5 represents the southernmost end of Moore County and encompasses Aberdeen, Pinebluff and reunites Foxfire into a single residency district.
EMS Partners on Study
The odds of surviving cardiac arrest outside of a hospital have not substantially improved over the last 30 years. Here in Moore County, approximately 125 people each year experience such an event.
“We rank in the top of our category on good (outcomes),” Public Safety Director Bryan Phillips told county leaders on Tuesday.
Phillips endorsed a contract between Duke University and the county’s Emergency Medical Services to partner on a seven-year research study to evaluate community and local health system intervention aimed to improve out-of-hospital cardiac arrest outcomes.
A recent pilot study conducted by Duke University found a combination of early bystander CPR or first-responder defibrillation is associated with a two- to three-fold higher rate of patient survival. Treatment within the first two minutes of cardiac arrest was particularly effective, with a 59 percent survival, compared with 13 percent for those treated after 10 minutes.
Phillips said Moore County’s survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest exceeds both the state and national average. He also noted that only patients and their families who volunteer for the study will be evaluated as part of the Duke University Randomized Cluster Evaluation of Cardiac Arrest Systems study.
In the late 2000s, more than 300 AED machines were installed at various locations around Moore County, including schools, churches and public facilities, as part of the HeartSafe Initiative. Moore County EMS maintains a county-wide list of all AED locations.
To ask about AED registration, getting one of these machines in your building, or to check whether your device is working properly, email Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other action Tuesday, the Moore County Board of Commissioners:
Sitting as East Moore Water District Board of Directors, approved: minutes, Deed of Dedication for Brookwood Phase 2 East and Ingleside, EMWD Phase 4 reconciling change order # 3
Recognized and adopted resolution in honor of George Little, national college Trustee of the Year
Proclaimed November as Adoption Awareness Month
Received presentation regarding land swap and upset bid process opportunities for Solid Waste
Endorsed proposal to establish a Registered Environmental Health Technician position at the State level
Approved sole source purchase agreement with Zoll Medical Corporation
Approved purchase contract with Northwestern Emergency Vehicle for a new ambulance
Reappointed Loretta Jacobs to the Aging Advisory Council
Appointed Tucker McKenzie and Farrah Pulliam to the Planning Board