North Carolina 8th District
In the Carolina Piedmont, from Atlanta to Durham along Interstate 85, lies the thickest concentration of America’s once-mighty textile industry. Within North Carolina, I-85 brushes past Concord and Kannapolis, the latter named for its founding company, Cannon Mills. While eastern Carolina was settled by Englishmen, the Piedmont was settled mainly by Scots and diverse groups like Quakers and Moravian sects, coming down the Blue Ridge from Pennsylvania through Virginia. These migratory patterns were reflected in Civil War divisions and continue in current voting habits. The coastal counties all the way up through the Sand Hills were Confederate and are now Democratic. The textile mill towns along the interstate were anti-secession and are now Republican.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Parts of both of these areas are in the 8th Congressional District. The most populous county in the district is Cabarrus County, which includes the southern end of the textile corridor around Kannapolis and Concord. In recent years, Cabarrus, fed by migration from Charlotte, has moved beyond its textile and small-town roots and become an exurban county, growing by 25% from 2000 to 2007; it was the 29th-fastest-growing county in the nation in 2007. Cabarrus casts one-fourth of the district’s votes. The bankruptcy of Pillowtex (formerly Cannon Mills) in 2003 eliminated some 4,000 jobs in Cabarrus and Rowan counties. As if the region didn’t have trouble enough, South Carolina sued in 2007 to try to stop North Carolina from diverting water from the Catawba River basin to Concord and Kannapolis. South Carolina views the river as a recreational resource, while the North Carolina areas rely on it to fill depleted reservoirs and for industrial uses.
The 8th District extends east to include part of Fayetteville’s Cumberland County, which casts 20% of the vote, but stops short of the military neighborhoods outside Fort Bragg. Democratic redistricters included as much of the Democratic Sand Hills as they could, and removed most of Union County, a fast-growing and heavily Republican area just east of Charlotte. They added central-city precincts in Charlotte with a mix of African-Americans and white liberals. This split-personality district has usually been carried by Republican presidential candidates and by North Carolina Democrats in close statewide contests. Both parties have long targeted it as a marginal district. Barack Obama increased the local turnout by nearly 20% compared with 2004, and won here with 52%.