Coble will no longer represent Rowan County

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 29, 2011

Staff and wire reports
SALISBURY — The Congressional redistricting maps given final approval in the N.C. General Assembly late Wednesday include a change in representation for many Rowan County residents.
Under the approved plan, the 6th District now represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Howard Coble no longer contains part of Rowan County, while the 5th District now represented by U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, also a Republican, is expanded to take in northwestern Rowan.
Coble said Thursday he has enjoyed representing Rowan County and will miss it if he is re-elected.
“I have represented those constituents for a good number of years, and I’ve come to treat them not unlike family members,” he said. “If I could, I’d keep everything I have, but I don’t have that luxury.”
Of the 10 counties in the new 6th District, Coble has represented only Guilford and Alamance before. He said that won’t stop him from getting to know the others.
“Those people in those other eight counties know virtually nothing about me, and I know virtually nothing about them,” Coble said. “They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I think you can teach an old congressman new tricks about making new friends.”
In an email Thursday, Foxx said she is confident that the redistricting process was fair and legal.
“Should I have the privilege of representing the 5th District in 2012, I’m looking forward to serving whoever might be within the boundaries of the new district,” Foxx said. “It is a great honor to serve in Congress, no matter who I represent, and I am ready to roll up my sleeves to get to know and work for constituents no matter where they may live.”
The 8th District now represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell, is expanded to take in southern and eastern Rowan, putting more GOP voters in a district that Kissell wrested away from Republican Robin Hayes in 2008.
But the biggest bone of contention in the newly approved map — and the one that could see it end up in the courts — is the redrawing of the 12th District now represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Mel Watt. The district, which stretches from Greensboro to Charlotte, still runs through Rowan but it has been reconfigured with a larger majority of black voters.
Critics, including Watt, say the GOP-led General Assembly has “packed” black voters into a few districts and diluted their influence in adjoining ones. They say that violates the Voting Rights Act.
Watt said in a July 21 statement to the legislature that the Voting Rights Act “was not… designed to create racial ghettos in which African-American candidates are given inordinate and unreasonable electoral advantages.”
The 12th District, which Watt has represented since its creation in 1992 was the focus of years of litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court approved the current boundaries.
Political analysts have said the proposed new maps are likely to face legal challenges again this year.
All three maps are now law, but next they’ll be presented to a federal court and U.S. attorneys to decide whether they meet anti-discrimination laws before they can be used in the 2012 elections.
Democrats predict the General Assembly will have to return to try to redraw boundaries they now say segregate black voters into certain districts to help Republicans win surrounding seats, and by creating ugly-looking and illegal districts.
Districts are redrawn every 10 years to reflect population growth reported by the U.S. Census — a 1.5 million increase in North Carolina since 2000. With Republicans holding a majority in both chambers for the first time since 1870, GOP lawmakers want boundaries that will extend their control of the General Assembly and boost their representation on Capitol Hill.
According to new state Senate maps, Sen. Andrew Brock will continue to represent all of Davie County and most of Rowan in the 34th District, and his district will pick up northern and eastern Iredell. N.C. Sen. William Purcell’s 25th District will expand into southeastern Rowan County.
In the state House, Rep. Fred Steen’s 76th District will gain northeastern Cabarrus County under the proposal. His district also will lose some of southwestern and central Rowan to the 77th District, represented by Rep. Harry Warren.