The Republican primary in the 2nd Congressional District was lively even before the political equivalent of a tsunami hit in the form of a reconstructed electoral map.
The landscape is already altered, with the announcement last week that Republican Rep. George Holding, a resident of the Democratic-leaning redrawn 4th District, will run in the 2nd and challenge his GOP colleague, U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers.
Holding, who lives in Raleigh, now represents the 13th District.
“These days politics, to say the least, is a mess,” Holding said in a statement Monday. “And redistricting has become one more example. Most of the people I have represented are now in the ‘new’ 2nd District, and I will be a candidate for re-election in the ‘new’ 2nd District. That, in all likelihood, will lead to a primary between me, Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, and whoever else may run – but that is the democratic process at work.”
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These days politics, to say the least, is a mess. And redistricting has become one more example.
U.S. Rep. George Holding, who plans to run in the 2nd District
Ellmers has started to campaign in the new 2nd District, said Patrick Sebastian, a spokesman for her campaign. She attended a GOP event in Johnston County on Saturday night.
Four candidates were already working to unseat Ellmers. But the new map and Holding’s entry into the race are causing Ellmers’ challengers to rethink their plans.
Jim Duncan, a first-time candidate who soaked up major endorsements in his effort to defeat Ellmers, is continuing to campaign as if the district hadn’t changed, said his campaign manager, Sean Moser. Meanwhile, Frank Roche, who ran against Ellmers two years ago, has already started campaigning in the new territory.
Roche said Holding is “a nice addition to the race” and will draw more attention to the primary. Roche, a former radio talk show host, said he knows people in the district’s new counties. Still, he said, the change is “a real drag, a real setback for us.”
According to an analysis by Holding’s campaign, more than 60 percent of the 152 precincts in the redrawn 2nd District were in the former 13th District. Eighteen precincts, 12 percent of the new 2nd District, were also in the old 2nd. Forty-two precincts, about 28 percent, were in other districts.
Sebastian noted that Ellmers represented much of the new 2nd District during her first term. She first won her seat in 2010, when the district included many of the counties that are in the re-drawn plan. Ellmers won two more elections in districts drawn in 2011.
“She’s represented almost every single person that’s going to be in the 2nd District,” he said. “It’s a matter of uniting with old constituents.”
She’s represented almost every single person that’s going to be in the 2nd District. It’s a matter of uniting with old constituents.
Patrick Sebastian, spokesman for 2nd District U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers
Perennial candidate Tim D’Annunzio posted on Facebook that he is now considering running in the 8th District, where Republican U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson is the incumbent. D’Annunzio ran in an 8th District Republican primary in 2008, losing in a runoff.
The other declared candidate in the 2nd, Kay Daly, a former state Republican spokeswoman, could not be reached.
The legislature last week reworked the congressional district boundaries to satisfy a federal court order that said the 1st and 12th districts were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. In changing those two districts, legislators altered the 11 others as well.
Some changed dramatically.
The map pulls the 13th District from the center of the state, and out from under Holding, and moves it west. The 2nd District has included counties south and west of the Triangle. It is now rotated east and north.
Duncan had accumulated a cache of high-profile endorsements that included backing from The Club for Growth. The conservative PAC has spent nearly $500,000 on television ads criticizing Ellmers.
Duncan lives in Chatham County — part of the 6th District in the new district map. Moser said the campaign continues to work from the 2nd District plan that had been in place since 2011.
“We’ll continue to focus on the 2nd as if there’s never been a change,” Moser said. “We’ll continue to focus on that path until the courts tell us otherwise.”
If the federal court approves the new districts, Duncan will consider other options, Moser said. Those include running in another district, including the 6th or the 13th, or not running at all.
“Everything is on the table,” Moser said. “We haven’t ruled out anything.”