For Republican Albert Wiley Jr., it will be a long road to victory in the 10th Congressional District.
More than 300 miles, to be exact.
Wiley lives in Salter Path, on a barrier island off Bogue Sound in southeastern North Carolina. He’s running in a district that runs from Gaston County to Asheville.
Wiley’s one of at least a half-dozen North Carolina congressional candidates running in districts other than their own, including three in the Charlotte area.
Democrat Thomas Mills of Carrboro, who lives in the 4th District, is running in the 8th. Democrat Juan Antonio Marin, Jr. of Hickory, who lives in the 10th, is running in the 12th. So is Republican Leon Threatt of Matthews. He lives in the 9th.
The Constitution requires members of Congress to live in the state they represent, but not necessarily the district. And it’s not the first time people have had to commute to the districts they want to represent.
For years, 9th District Republican U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick lived in Charlotte’s Fourth Ward, two doors from Democratic U.S. Rep. Mel Watt’s home in the 12th District.
In 2004, Winston-Salem Republican Vernon Robinson ran in his home 5th District. Two years later he announced he would run against Watt in the 12th but later switched to the 13th District.
Then there was Republican Greg Dority of coastal Beaufort County.
With his own 3rd District seat held by a fellow Republican, he ran twice in the 1st District. In 2010 he looked at running in the 4th District but ended up filing in the 12th, represented by Democrat Watt.
He won a Republican runoff despite campaigning in the district only a dozen times and not even visiting all the counties.
Some of this year’s commuters are running on principle.
Mills is a Democratic consultant who runs a blog called Politics North Carolina. He said he filed against Republican U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson because nobody else had.
“I didn’t plan on running,” he wrote, “but I also wasn’t going to watch a Republican incumbent get a pass, especially not in that district.”
Mills said partisan redistricting in the 8th and elsewhere has left the state with districts drawn to be virtually the exclusive domains of one party or the other.
“Gerrymandering in North Carolina has put a damper on democracy,” he wrote. “People don’t want to run if they don’t think they can win. But elections are unpredictable and there are a lot of reasons to run besides winning. I’m running for all of them.”
Before filing ended Dec. 21, Mills talked about that with two other Democrats who also decided to run in heavily Republican districts. One was Adam Coker, an artist and business owner in Boone. He’s running in the eastern 2nd District, represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers.
Coker said his family has roots in the 2nd District, even if that was a long time ago. Despite gerrymandering, he said, voters deserve a choice.
“No (Democrat) ran, so we filed,” he said. “There has to be a debate. This is a democracy right?”