A three-judge panel decided Tuesday (Jan. 11th) that the redistricting maps drawn by the Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly are OK and the primary election, originally scheduled for March 8th, can proceed on May 17th. Filing, which was suspended pending the decision, will now resume at 8 AM on February 24th and end at noon on March 4th.
The judges rejected arguments that the lines were illegally politically stacked for the GOP and that they were based in part on racial guidelines that meant they would unfairly diminish the influence of minority voters.
The unanimous decision followed a quick trial last week, will no doubt be appealed by the advocacy groups who had challenged the new congressional and legislative lines in court.
The state Supreme Court, which is expected to have the final say on the maps, had ordered the trial judges to rule by Tuesday. While they, or a federal court--if the case should go that far--can overturn Tuesday's decision, that now appears highly unlikely.
The truth is that the new maps do in fact favor the GOP, which could hold 10 of the state's 14 US House seats as well as achieving again as super-majority (able to overturn a gubernatorial veto) in the NC House and Senate majorities that are almost unbreakable. With the new districts, a Republican majority in both houses of the General Assembly appears amost certain.
Some believe (rightly) that it's 'turn about, fair play'--saying that when Democrats held a majority in the NC General Assembly, the maps they drew gave their party an advantage.
Those candidates who filed in December, when the filing originally began expecting a March primary, won't have to file again. Lincolnton Mayor Ed Hatley and two Democrats whose seats on the City Council are up for election this year, filed then, as did two GOP challengers for those two City Council seats. Two incumbent Lincoln County Commissioners, Bud Cesena & Milton Sigmon, and one challenger, Jamie Lineberger, filed as GOP candidates for those two seats on the County Commission. Two current school board members filed in December, but Todd Wulfhorst, who currenty represents District 5, filed for the at-large seat currently held by Tony Jenkins. Jenkins filed as did Democrat Keith Poston. This year, for the first time, the Board of Education race will be partisan, so candidates will potentially face any challengers in the May primary, then the party choices will advance to the November ballot.
Krista Heavner and former County Commissioner Martin Oakes both filed for the GOP nomination for the District 5 seat Wulfhorst currently holds.
Sheriff Bill Beam is the only candidate who has filed for his post, but former lieutenant Erin Long, now a captain with the Bessemer City Police, had intended to file on Thursday of the first filing week in December before the courts paused the filing pending Tuesday's decision. Alan Hoyle, who ran unsuccessfully as an unaffiliated candidate four years ago, has again obtained the paperwork to get his name on the November ballot with a petition. He'll need a large number of signatures by registered voters on that petition to make that happen.
Clerk of Court Fred Hatley and Register of Deeds Danny Hester, both Republicans, filed in December.
In addition to local and statewide races, voters in Cleveland County will decide in May whether or not to make sales of beer and wine legal in unincorporated areas. Right now, only cities and towns can give stores permission to sell beer and wine. That was previously also true in Gaston County, but County Commissioners there expanded legal sales outside towns a few years ago. High Shoals became the last Gaston County minicipality to approve beer & wine sales in the November 2021 municipal election.