(The Center Square) – North Carolina’s litigated state Supreme Court order on the 2022 congressional maps changed the recent pattern and expectancy of majority Republicans.
And Tuesday night’s historic vote ousting Rep. Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the U.S. House begs a question: With the 216-210 vote inclusive of partisan sides from North Carolina’s 7-7 split, would the Californian still be in place had the state been as most projected at 9-5 GOP or even 10-4?
We’ll never know, and Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., is the speaker pro tempore until a new leadership vote comes in about a week or more.
“If Republicans would have gotten 10 (districts) on the old map, it seems likely” the outcome would have been different, Andy Jackson told The Center Square. He’s director of the right-leaning John Locke Foundation’s Civitas Center for Public Policy
“Would all of the three new Republicans have voted to keep McCarthy?” Jackson said. “I think that’s probably likely as well because Rep. (Dan) Bishop … is arguably the most conservative member of the delegation and his vote for McCarthy would have been a safeguard for other members voting to support him.”
Michael Bitzer, professor of politics at Catawba College, believes the outcome “may have had some influence on vacating the speaker’s chair, but the bigger question on that dynamic is what kind of Republican would have come out of those three districts?
“Would they have been more ‘main-line’ conservatives, like a Patrick McHenry or Richard Hudson, or would they have been more of the ‘bomb-throwing’ conservatives of a Matt Gaetz?” Bitzer wrote in an email to The Center Square, referring to the representative from Florida who initiated Tuesday’s vote. “I don’t think we can speculate what kind of candidate would have emerged at this point, but certainly having three more Republicans in the conference might have diluted the eight (Republican) defectors against McCarthy.”
The historical occasion’s tie to North Carolina easily gets past McHenry pinch-hitting this October.
The congressional maps were drawn by special masters after the state Supreme Court – four Democrats in favor, three Republicans against – ruled those drawn by the General Assembly to be unconstitutional. What former State Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds, former UNC System President Thomas Ross, and former Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr drew up were maps expecting just one competitive toss-up district, and the other 13 going 7-6 Republicans.
Jowei Chen, political scientist at the University of Michigan, ran 1,000 simulations and found that 7-in-10 produced a 9-5 split favoring the GOP. Another 9% went 10-4; only 1.3% were 7-7. Chen testified in the litigation, against the General Assembly. The state’s voter registration rolls are nearly even thirds – as of Saturday, 36.3% unaffiliated, 32.9% Democrats and 30.1% Republicans.
Prior to the 2022 midterms, the split was 9-4 GOP in 2013-15 and 10-3 in 2015-17, 2017-19 and 2019-21.
In a case of interesting timing, the same 2022 midterm that gave North Carolina a 7-7 split in Washington also yielded change on the state Supreme Court panel. It is now five Republicans and two Democrats, and earlier this year took the case back up and subsequently ordered new maps.
Like Bitzer, Jackson suggested the biggest unknown is “exactly who would have run for what districts” under the initial map approved by the General Assembly.
“There’s obviously a lot of speculation with this and things were happening in other states like Oregon,” Jackson said, “but North Carolina is an interesting one, particularly because one of our own is temporarily in charge of the House.”