North Carolina 2nd District
The coastal plain of North Carolina was long bypassed by history. It was settled after Virginia and South Carolina, and only filled in with English settlers as Scots-Irish families were streaming down the valley of Virginia to the western Piedmont. This had long been tobacco country, a high-yield crop that for many years could support a family on 40 acres. Tobacco, an important colonial crop, became even more so after James B. Duke created Bull Durham tobacco and Lucky Strike cigarettes. But this was long a backward area. Its small farms and little cities were populated mainly by tenant farmers and mill hands, people raising families in thin-walled frame houses, often with no electricity or running water.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
In many ways, life here has improved, in large part because this region adjoins one of the nation’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas, Raleigh-Durham. The population of Wake County, which includes Raleigh, grew 33% from 2000 to 2007. Similar growth is taking place in surrounding Franklin (21%), Johnston (29%), Harnett (19%), and Chatham (25%) counties. The dynamic local economy has generated tens of thousands of jobs, with subdivisions and retirement communities sprouting up. While counties to the east have seen denim mills close and tobacco farms reduced by half since Congress in 2004 ended price supports, other parts of the region have boomed. Raleigh combines North Carolina State University and glitzy new cultural institutions with country-cured hams and collard greens at such culinary destinations as Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant. In Chatham County, a co-op in 2006 opened the state’s first biodiesel production plant.
The 2nd Congressional District of North Carolina consists of an irregular loop south of Raleigh, taking in parts of nine counties, including Wake County, which is split among three congressional districts. It covers all of Johnston County, the state’s top tobacco-producing county, and parts of hog-producing Sampson County and Cumberland County, including portions of the Army’s Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base. The Hispanic population has grown to 10% as Latinos flock to jobs in meat- and chicken-processing factories, but many are not registered to vote. This is by and large the blue-collar, country music part of the booming Raleigh-Durham metro area, a place where most voters have a Democratic heritage but many have gotten into the habit of voting Republican for major offices. In 2000, the district voted for Republican George W. Bush for president and for Democrat Michael Easley for governor. Despite the presence of native-son John Edwards on the Democratic ticket as the vice presidential nominee in 2004, the 2nd voted for Bush again. But in Barack Obama’s narrow victory in North Carolina in 2008, he beat John McCain in this district, 52.5%-47%.