When the Republicans took control of the General Assembly on the eve of the hour to draw new district lines, congressional Democrats in this state, even those who were deeply entrenched, immediately became vulnerable.
But who would have predicted Lumberton native Mike McIntyre, arguably the most conservative of the state’s seven Democratic members of the U.S. House, would have become a target of Republicans? That’s exactly what happened when District 7 was reshaped — and the GOP scalpel sliced out about 90 percent of Robeson County and deposited it into District 8, which is represented by Larry Kissell, also a Democrat.
And just like that, Robeson County, whose relevance in Congress has grown steadily since McIntyre first took office in January 1997, was relegated to a bit player, one that will probably get no more than a courtesy fly-by during the upcoming campaign.
McIntyre, understanding the math, considered an alternative route when Gov. Bev Perdue decided that instead of going down fighting she would step aside and not seek re-election. But on Friday, McIntyre announced his decision: He would seek re-election in District 7, which no longer includes his family home.
McIntyre’s decision was pragmatic. He didn’t believe he could summon the capital — primarily money, but also statewide recognition — necessary for a legitimate run at the state’s top executive post in the little time that remained for that to happen. That was still the case on Friday even though the Democratic field is less than impressive, and is now no more than red meat for Pat McCrory, the former Charlotte mayor.
McIntyre now faces a re-election campaign in a district that voted for John McCain during the 2008 presidential election, and although he will parade his conservative credentials, they will pale in comparison with his opponent — either a rematch with staunch conservative Ilario Pantano, who garnered about 47 percent while running against McIntyre during the 2010 General Election, or David Rouzer, a state senator from Johnston and Wayne counties who is slightly to the left of Pantano.
Either way, McIntyre won’t have much wiggle room; No longer will his election hopes be buoyed with each additional ballot that is cast in Robeson County. Much of the former District 7 remains in the newly drawn District 7, so McIntyre’s re-election hopes will depend heavily on the amount of goodwill he has accumulated during his eight terms in office.
Re-election to Congress remain’s McIntyre’s best bet politically — but Las Vegas would eagerly cover it.