North Carolina 3rd District
Nearly 500 years ago, Giovanni da Verrazano sailed past the Gulf Stream and landed on a sand-spit island he thought was the outer edge of China. It was the Outer Banks of North Carolina. These are probably America’s most unstable barrier islands, constantly changing shape and cut by new inlets as they are battered by ocean currents and storm winds. In 2003, 30-foot waves from Hurricane Isabel pounded the beaches. The islands were settled early by Europeans. Sir Walter Raleigh’s Roanoke colony was founded here in 1587, then vanished shortly thereafter. Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, and other pirates lurked in Pamlico and Albemarle sounds behind the islets. History is still very much alive on the Outer Banks. An antique form of English is spoken on Ocracoke Island, reachable only by ferry. A pack of wild horses—believed to be the last remaining descendants of late-16th-century Spanish mustangs—roams free in a 12,000-acre sanctuary on Corolla’s beaches. The 208-foot lighthouse on Cape Hatteras, America’s tallest, looks out on some of the most treacherous currents in the Atlantic. The sands along Kitty Hawk, with their constant winds, brought the Wright brothers to the Outer Banks to undertake mankind’s first heavier-than-air flight in December 1903. The Outer Banks are prime vacation and retirement country, with affluent beachfront communities around Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, and Duck and, much farther south, on the “Crystal Coast” around Beaufort (BOWfort, not BEWfort as in South Carolina) and Morehead City.
2008 Presidential Vote
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Inland, amid swamps, is the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune, home base for one-fifth of the Corps, many of whose members have served in Iraq. Past and present military families at the base were shaken by admissions by the government in June 2007 that as many as 1 million people consumed tainted water at Camp Lejeune from 1957 to 1987. The base’s drinking wells were contaminated with industrial solvents like TCE and PCE in concentrations as much as 40 times higher than today’s safety standards. Many victims have filed health claims against the government. On the other side of the Croatan National Forest is Cherry Point, the world’s largest Marine Corps air station. The flatlands of east Carolina have long been tobacco- and peanut-growing country, and are now also hog-raising land.
The 3rd Congressional District of North Carolina covers the Outer Banks and much of the coastal plain of North Carolina, though the northeastern tier moves more in the orbit of Virginia’s Hampton Roads than North Carolina’s Research Triangle. The 3rd exists in balance with the 1st, with which it shares most of eastern North Carolina. Fingers of the 3rd District reach deeply inland to include mostly white portions of Goldsboro and Greenville, where tobacco farms are fading and a pharmaceutical company is the largest industrial employer. The 3rd is predominantly white and Republican, compared with the 1st, which is half African-American and heavily Democratic. Party registration here is misleading, an artifact of the past. There are 27,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, but the district voted for George W. Bush by 68%-32% in 2004. John McCain comfortably won the district with 62% even as he lost the state.