Convention: North Carolina Democrats Deal with Republican-Dealt Hand in the House

by Jessica Taylor September 4, 2012 · 5:27 PM EDT

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- North Carolina Democrats here in the Queen City have a common enemy-- their new congressional redistricting map that’s imperiled at least four Democratic-held districts this fall.

Democrats’ ire against the new lines was on full display at a delegation breakfast on Tuesday morning as the delegation kicked off the official start to the convention for a home state crowd -- bracketed by one endangered Democrat who took the stage and one, just miles away, who didn’t.

Eight-term Rep. Mike McIntyre’s odds for re-election are slightly better than his neighbor, two-term Rep. Larry Kissell. And it was the more senior Democrat who made the longer trek to Charlotte, telling the crowd about the influential positions on the Agriculture and Armed Services committees that he would have if he wins. His seniority, and potential clout, is a crucial part of his message to voters in a congressional district with over one-third new voters.

McIntyre said in an interview after his speech that he didn’t have concerns about addressing the partisan crowd here, despite differing with his party, particularly social issues.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase North Carolina,” McIntyre said, explaining why he came to the convention. “We have the best in Southern hospitality.”

But McIntyre had other choice words for his opponent, GOP state Sen. David Rouzer (R), and his allies, who the congressman said had an undue hand in drawing the winding district as a legislator in Raleigh.

“[Rouzer] tried to predetermine the election,” he said of GOP mapmaking. “They drew themselves into our district,” said McIntyre, alluding to Rouzer’s suburban Raleigh home being added to the Democrat’s Wilmington base. Rouzer was one of only a few GOP candidates to speak from the main stage at last week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

McIntyre’s home was drawn into Kissell’s new district, and as for his fellow congressman’s notable absence, he said that was Kissell’s decision -- but that he had proof he was using this week of recess to introduce himself to his new constituents.

“[Kissell] called me from across the street from my house in Lumberton, N.C.,” said McIntyre, saying the fellow Democrat was politicking in his own neighborhood. “It was an ironic situation to happen that shows the visciousness that [Rouzer] would rip up small towns and rural areas for his own political posturing.”

Republicans have been giddily making hay of Kissell’s absence this week, and this morning the National Republican Congressional Committee even offered to pay his cab fare to the convention center, just a few miles away. A Kissell spokesman said the congressman was at a clean coal event with NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. earlier Tuesday.

Other senior members of the Tar Heel delegation also pointed fingers at Republicans for their highly tilted map. Rep. G.K. Butterfield got by far the most enthusiastic response from the crowd during his talk, and noted his own “very large district [was] manipulated by Republican legislature.”

In his remarks, congressional dean David Price listed off every Democrat running in all 13 districts, saying all deserved the party’s support, and hope, even though some are running in very uphill battles. In the 13th District, Democrats have essentially ceded the once Democratic-seat held by retiring Rep. Brad Miller (D), who once pondered challenging Price in the 4th District primary. Miller also addressed the breakfast, and when state party chairman David Parker introduced the outgoing congressman, he said he’ll “definitely be on the ballot” sometime in the future again.

Price said in an interview before the breakfast that Republicans had tilted many of the races “against [Democrats] deliberately,” but that “they’re fighting hard and it’d be a big mistake for anybody to write them off.”

“Statewide republicans are trying to win 10 of the 13 districts in a state that Obama carried. In a closely divided state, they’re trying to win it all,” said Price. “So those Republican voters are being spread a little more thinly than you’d expect.”

As for Kissell’s decision not to attend, Price said that was “his choice,” but that his colleague was still “going to fight hard and has a good shot.” The congressman also said that he’s still holding out hope the map could be overturned by the courts and redrawn before the 2014 elections.

“It’s blatantly racial redistricting,” said Price. “It’s an uphill fight, but we’re not conceding a single one.”