North Carolina has a new congressional map. It’s a major GOP gerrymander.

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Republicans have pushed through an aggressive gerrymander of North Carolina’s congressional map that will help them flip several seats in Congress.

Those looming GOP pickups will bolster the party’s chances of defending their narrow House majority next year by erasing or even surpassing Republican losses elsewhere in the South, where courts have begun tossing out congressional lines for diluting the power of Black voters.

North Carolina’s new map, which was approved Wednesday by the state legislature, is particularly efficient at securing a GOP advantage in a state that’s closely divided for many statewide races — setting off a scramble among Republicans for the opportunity to run in the newly safe seats.

The map packs as many Democratic voters as possible into three blue districts, while distributing Republicans across the remaining districts to make sure they remain largely out of reach for Democrats. The maps were drawn so Republicans would hold a strong majority of the state’s seats even in particularly bad years for the GOP.

The new map will remake the state’s delegation from an even split of seven Democrats and seven Republicans to one that would likely lock in 10 Republicans and three Democrats, with one competitive battleground seat that Democratic Rep. Don Davis currently holds.

The state used a court-drawn map with a handful of competitive districts for the midterm elections; the new proposal was created by the GOP supermajorities in the state’s legislative chambers. State law gives the governor — Democrat Roy Cooper — no role in the redistricting process, so the map immediately goes into effect.

Republicans’ new lines obliterate three Democratic districts, all but guaranteeing that Rep. Kathy Manning and first-term Democrats Wiley Nickel and Jeff Jackson won’t return. The new map also makes Davis’ district — which was already a battleground — into even closer to a coin flip, giving Republicans an opportunity to hold 11 of the state’s 14 districts.

“It’s a 50-50 state,” Nickel said. “Seventy-nine percent of the seats for Republicans in a 50-50 state. It’s just wrong.”

New deep-red districts — and the decision by GOP Rep. Dan Bishop to run for state attorney general — mean the delegation could see as many as five new members come 2025. Ambitious Republicans have already begun launching bids for districts that have yet to shift lines.

Former Republican Rep. Mark Walker has already announced that he will run in the new 6th district, ending his gubernatorial bid.“Transparently, it would be disingenuous of me to act as if there were a clear path in the gubernatorial race,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to representing many friends as well as family members in the new 6th.”

Other names to watch: Grant Campbell, an Army veteran and OB/GYN, and former state Sen. Dan Barrett.

State House Speaker Tim Moore has long been eyeing the new seat that will now include his home in Cleveland County. Jackson represents it under the current lines. 2022 nominee Pat Harrigan is also running.

A crowded field is already forming in Nickel’s district, including state Rep. Erin Paré. Other possible contenders: businessman John Cane Jr.; 2022 candidates Kelly Daughtry and DeVan Barbour IV; and former Rep. Renee Ellmers. Fred Von Canon, who initially launched a run against Davis under the old lines, could also run here.

In the east, Davis’ district will become the only true competitive seat. Army veteran Laurie Buckhout launched a campaign there last week and seeded her bid with $1 million. 2022 loser Sandy Smith is running as well. State Sens. Buck Newton, Bobby Hanig and Lisa Barnes are other possible candidates.

In Bishop’s now-open Charlotte-area district, Mark Harris, whose apparent victory in 2018 was the subject of fraud allegations that caused an election do-over, is running. Another name to watch: Bo Hines, who initially filed for a rematch against Nickel but could run here — or in another seat.

Republicans in the state were not shy about this map being one drawn to benefit their party.

“There’s no doubt that the congressional map that’s before you today has a lean towards Republicans,” Republican state Rep. Destin Hall, who chairs the state House Rules Committee, said on the floor on Wednesday, while arguing that it doesn’t “foreordain” future elections.

North Carolina Republicans have repeatedly drawn maps for political advantage over the years.

After the decennial census, the Republican-controlled state legislature drew a congressional map in 2021 that was heavily tilted toward the GOP — and the liberal state Supreme Court struck it down as an illegal partisan gerrymander. That led to the court-drawn map in use last year.

But Republicans flipped control of the state Supreme Court in the midterms, and the new conservative majority decided to rehear that decision — a highly unusual move. That court ultimately ruled that it would no longer litigate partisan gerrymandering, giving the Republican legislature a free pass to draw lines to their own advantage.

(The U.S. Supreme Court similarly ruled in 2019, in a case challenging North Carolina’s congressional map at the time, that the federal judiciary also wouldn’t police partisan gerrymandering claims.)

Republicans are also ushering through state legislative maps this week that will cement their control of both chambers, giving the party a clear path to control the next mapmaking process.

It is possible that civic groups or Democrats bring a challenge to the new maps, with one of the party’s top lawyers threatening to do so when they were revealed. But it isn’t clear yet what grounds they could be brought under — and any litigation would be highly unlikely to be resolved before 2024.

One North Carolina Democrat suggested that Davis’ new district could be challenged under the Voting Rights Act. “There’s a good chance we may have violated” that law, state Rep. Pricey Harrison said on the floor on Wednesday.

It will still likely be a busy year in the state.

President Joe Biden’s campaign has already indicated it will try to compete in the Tar Heel State in 2024. The state has been the source of repeated political heartbreak for Democrats, who have lost close presidential and Senate races there recently.

Democrats have carried the state just once on the presidential level this millennium — Barack Obama’s 2008 win — but Biden came tantalizingly close to doing so in 2020, with the state handing former President Donald Trump his closest margin of victory.

It will also feature what is likely the most competitive gubernatorial race in 2024. Democratic state Attorney General Josh Stein and Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson are their parties’ primary frontrunners to succeed Cooper, who is term-limited.

Jackson, the Democratic member of Congress, has long been rumored to be eyeing Stein’s attorney general seat if his district got wiped out.

Several other states may also see new congressional lines ahead of next year’s elections. Alabama already has a new map that will be used next year which will likely add a Black and Democratic member to the state’s delegation, after a federal court found — and the Supreme Court affirmed — that the old lines likely violated the Voting Rights Act.

Georgia and Louisiana also have ongoing racial gerrymandering cases that could together add a pair of Democratic-leaning seats to Congress by increasing the voting power of Black voters.

And New York Democrats are in the midst of a lengthy legal process, pushing for the opportunity to redraw their state’s lines. A court-drawn map used last year created several hypercompetitive districts that Republicans won in the midterms, which helped the party secure their fragile House majority.

Democrats want the opportunity for their legislative majority to draw — and gerrymander — those lines for 2024, which could help them pick up a handful of seats, or at least make some currently held by the GOP more competitive.

Madison Fernandez, Natalie Allison and Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.

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