Dem Senate Candidate Flipped on Gerrymandering

Cal Cunningham Wikimedia Commons
October 1, 2019

Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham criticized the Supreme Court's decision to uphold North Carolina's 2017 congressional redistricting map despite his own record of gerrymandering to benefit his party.

A lawsuit led by the North Carolina Democratic Party alleged that the congressional map was gerrymandered. In June, the Supreme Court dismissed the suit. Cunningham, now running for Senate in North Carolina, tweeted at the time that the decision was "so disappointing." He added there is "no better example of our broken political system than politicians rigging election maps & picking their voters instead of the other way around."

"I will fight for fair elections, fair maps, independent redistricting, and a political system that empowers voters to make their voices heard," he said in a subsequent tweet.

Cunningham's criticism is at odds with his own voting record. As a state senator in 2001, Cunningham voted to redraw congressional districts to favor Democratic candidates.

Only two Democratic state senators, including future U.S. senator Kay Hagan, voted against the 2001 redistricting.

The redistricting effort that Cunningham supported had visible electoral effects. Fair Vote, an electoral reform organization, noted that the 2001 map created a "Democratic tilt" that allowed Barack Obama to win a majority of the vote in 8 of North Carolina's 13 districts in 2008, despite winning the state by less than 15,000 votes.

The Supreme Court upheld the 2017 redistricting on the grounds that it would be "an unprecedented expansion of judicial power" to strike down maps that favor one political party over the other. The 2017 maps were drawn after a lower court ruled Republican-led redistricting in 2011 unconstitutional.

Republican state representative David Lewis, who helped design the 2017 maps, called the Supreme Court's decision "a complete vindication of our state."

The case surrounding the redistricting effort is ongoing after a state court threw out the new congressional maps in September.