North Carolina 9th District
“An agreeable village but in a damn rebellious country,” recorded Gen. Cornwallis when, before the unpleasantness at Yorktown, he visited Charlotte, North Carolina. Settled by Scots-Irish and German colonists who came down from Pennsylvania along the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlotte is a rapidly growing metropolitan area of some 1.7 million people. Before the California gold rush, Charlotte was the gold-mining capital of the country; in 1837, the U.S. Mint established a branch here. And the city has continued its preoccupation with the financial sector. It is headquarters to one of the nation’s biggest banks: Bank of America, formed from the 1998 merger of Charlotte-based NationsBank and San Francisco’s Bank of America. But it was not immune to the tumult in the financial markets in late 2008. The Charlotte-based Wachovia, which was the area’s second-largest employer, was taken over in early 2009 by San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, a move that likely saved Wachovia from failure. Still, for a city its size, Charlotte has a respectable share of Fortune 500 companies. Nine are headquartered in the Charlotte area, including Lowe’s, Family Dollar Store, Duke Energy, Sonic Automotive, and B.F. Goodrich. It is also the center of the nation’s biggest textile manufacturing region. Charlotte’s metro area is projected to equal Atlanta’s by 2030. The city was rated America’s best place to live by the Relocate-America.com website in 2008. The downside of its rapid growth is that the city has the worst sprawl of 15 fast-growing metro areas. In November 2007, a 9.6-mile light-rail system began operations and exceeded ridership expectations, with plans for expansion.
2008 Presidential Vote
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The past two decades have brought cultural development to Charlotte worthy of its increasing business stature. It now boasts a $50 million performing arts center across from the 60-story Bank of America tower, and is home to the Carolina Panthers professional football team and the Charlotte Bobcats basketball franchise owned by Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson. The rebelliousness Cornwallis noted can be seen in this region’s passion for the stock-car circuit. One of the nation’s biggest auto-racing tracks is here, and just up the road is Mooresville, home of the late Dale Earnhardt and the family’s racing business. In 2010, the NASCAR Hall of Fame is scheduled to open in Charlotte. The city has built a boosterish pride in its capacity for accommodation. It is proud that it responded amicably to a busing order approved in a landmark Supreme Court case in 1971; that it twice elected an African-American Democrat as mayor, Harvey Gantt, and then replaced him with conservative Republican Sue Myrick, who now represents the city’s district in Congress. (Charlotte can’t seem to produce a political star, however. Five mayors have run statewide since 1984, and all have lost—most recently, Pat McCrory in the 2008 race for governor. In the 1990s, Gantt lost two challenges to the late Sen. Jesse Helms, a conservative Republican.)
The 9th Congressional District of North Carolina includes about half of Mecklenburg County. It extends west to include most of Gaston County, long a textile center, and south to take in upscale bedroom communities in Union County, the seventh-fastest-growing county in the nation. Mecklenburg County as a whole is politically competitive, with Barack Obama winning it 62%-38%, but the 9th District overall is Republican. President Bush won here with 63% in 2004, but John McCain dropped to 55% in 2008.