North Carolina voters Tuesday chose at least nine Republicans to represent the state in the U.S. Congress, electing a 13-member delegation whose makeup is vastly different as a result of new district boundaries that made certain the flip from the current Democratic majority.
Unofficial results showed Republicans were winning seats held by two Democratic incumbents who chose retirement over seeking re-election. That included Republican George Holding of Raleigh, who was poised to take the seat held now by Democrat Brad Miller.
Another Democratic incumbent, two-term Congressman Larry Kissell, lost in the 8th District to Republican Richard Hudson .
And in a fourth race that was being watched nationally because of its expected closeness, incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, a Democrat, and David Rouzer, a two-term Republican state senator, are headed to a recount in the 7th District. Merely 507 votes separated the candidates, according to unofficial results.
McIntyre has held the seat for 16 years, but Republican lawmakers changed the district after the 2010 census to include more Republicans in a more compact area of the southeastern part of the state. The race became one of the most expensive in the nation, with millions spent on both sides to influence the outcome.
The strong GOP showing in North Carolina was helping Republicans nationally in their effort to keep control of the House of Representatives.
More of the delegation will be generally representing the Republican point of view now on taxes and spending, on social issues, David McLennan, a professor of political science at William Peace University in Raleigh, said Tuesday.
An unusual advantage
Democrats held seven or eight of the 13 seats from North Carolina in each of the past three terms of Congress, with a current 7-6 majority of the delegation.
That will change in January.
The last time Republicans controlled the delegation easily was after the 1994 election, which gave the GOP an 8-4 margin. That majority was gone two years later. Prior to that, Republicans had not dominated the states congressional delegation since right after the Civil War.
McLennan said that a greater number of North Carolina Republicans in Congress will mean the states delegation as a whole will be pursuing a different set of goals and policies, likely in concert with House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans who control the House.
Speaker Boehner will have more colleagues and more allies from North Carolina to support what he is trying to do, McLennan said.
A Republican ... cant lose
Nowhere was Tuesdays change more apparent than in the 13th District, which includes parts of Raleigh.
Miller, the incumbent, decided not to run after new boundary lines were drawn that, among other changes, extended the district west into reliably Republican regions. As a result, the Republican primary was a bruising contest between Holding, the former top federal prosecutor for the eastern part of the state, and Wake County commission chairman Paul Coble.
The general election, pitting Holding against little known Democrat Charles Malone, was almost an afterthought.
The district is drawn now in such a way that a Republican almost cant lose it, and a Democrat cant win it, Holding said in an interview.
By 8 p.m. Tuesday, less than a half hour after the polls closed, Holding was cautiously celebrating victory at the Velvet Cloak Inn on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, with returns showing him with more than 60 percent of the vote. He ended up winning 57 to 43 percent, according to unofficial results.
Just because the election is over doesnt mean any problems have been solved, Holding said. Im looking forward to going to Washington to preach the same message I have been for the past 16 months, which is to tackle the debt and start creating jobs.
Kenneth Fernandez, an assistant professor of political science at Elon University and director of the Elon Poll, said many voters might not notice a huge change, though there will be differences with a loss in seniority and the new members starting fresh in committees.
Fernandez said research shows that members of Congress, no matter their party, focus first on serving constituents, and that wont change.
What has changed, he said, is the dynamics of the electorate due to redistricting into one that favors Republicans.
There really was just one really competitive district, he said. If you are a Democrat and all of a sudden you are represented by a Republican, you might not be thrilled. But their No. 1 priority is still going to be the service part of the job to the constituency.
A good example of the effect of redistricting was in the 2nd District, where two years ago Renee Ellmers unseated a seven-term incumbent, Bob Etheridge, with only 49.47 percent of the vote.
On Tuesday, Ellmers cruised to victory Tuesday by more than 45,000 votes over Democrat Steve Wilkins.
Wilkins congratulated her on the win. He said he understood from the beginning that the way the district was drawn might be too much to overcome.
If you look at the congressional races, theyre shaping up the way redistricting intended them to, Wilkins said.
Another Democratic incumbent, two-term Congressman Larry Kissell, lost in the 8th District to Republican Richard Hudson.
Kissell, who beat an incumbent in 2008, saw his district shifted to include Republican areas of Randolph, Rowan and Davidson counties and most observers gave him no chance of winning. In 2008 and 2010, Kissell won with at least 53 percent of the vote.
But Tuesday, it was Hudson, who has been a campaign aide to several Republicans and was a congressional aide to three House members, gaining 53 percent of the vote.
But it wasnt yet clear whether the GOP tide would extend to the closely watched 7th District.
Some estimates put the spending on ads and vote-getting efforts in the race at more than $8 million, as much money as is spent in the top statewide races in North Carolina. Analysts noted that McIntyre took some positions that were considered to be to the right of Rouzers.
Staff writer Aliana Ramos contributed to this report.
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