Under the Dome

Bill would put three Wake incumbents in one commissioner district

Sen. Chad Barefoot’s controversial plan to change how Wake County elects commissioners would put three Democratic incumbents in the same race if they all seek reelection in 2018.

Barefoot and fellow Republicans say the bill would end “outrageously expensive” countywide campaigns that result in a board that mostly lives in Raleigh. But Democrats say the proposal is a power grab launched after all Republican incumbents lost in last year’s commissioners election.

The News & Observer checked where the current commissioners live on the map Barefoot has proposed. Assuming all seven incumbents try to keep their seats through 2019, here’s what would happen if the bill passes:

In 2016, incumbents Caroline Sullivan, James West and Betty Lou Ward could seek reelection in their current districts. If they win, their terms would only last for two years – not the four-year terms they currently have.

Meanwhile, Wake voters would elect two additional commissioners in 2016 – one from a primarily urban district, one from a primarily suburban and rural district. They’d serve four-year terms.

The new system would be fully implemented in 2018. All seven of the current commission seats would be on the ballot, but candidates would have to live within one of the seven districts drawn for the Wake school board. They’d run only within that district – not countywide like the current system.

If Sullivan keeps her seat through 2018, she’d then share a district with two other Democratic incumbents: John Burns and Sig Hutchinson. All three would only be eligible to run for the District 2 seat in 2018.

Four other incumbents would remain in separate districts: Matt Calabria, Jessica Holmes, Ward and West.

Want to weigh in on Barefoot’s proposal? You’ve got two opportunities next week before the bill gets a vote in a Senate committee.

Wake County’s legislative delegation will take public comment during its meeting at 3 p.m. Monday at the Legislative Building.

The Senate redistricting committee will hear more public comment before it votes on the proposal. Speakers must sign up before the meeting, at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Room 544, Legislative Office Building, 300 N. Salisbury St. Sign up at ncleg.net under “News and Information.”

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