North Carolina 10th District
Steeped in the hues that gave them the name Blue Ridge, the heavily wooded mountains of North Carolina seem placid and ancient. Geologically, they are some of the oldest ranges in the world. Economically, the region is blue-collar and oriented toward manufacturing, though there is some cotton farming, too. During the 1990s, residents here benefited from investment in fiber-optic factories, which, along with the general economic boom, helped reduce the local unemployment rate to near-record lows. But the Internet bust hurt the fiber-optic business. Textiles and furniture were also troubled, and the local unemployment rate rose. At the same time, this corner of North Carolina is adapting—as are so many other rural areas in the U.S.—to growing diversity. County seats like Morganton in Burke County are now home not just to Hispanics but to newcomers from Laos; the influx of recent arrivals has prompted some anti-immigrant backlash in this previously insular region, including the occasional rejection of school bond proposals on the grounds that they could help immigrants disproportionately. The Catawba Valley is home to the Hosiery Technology Center and produces about one-third of the nation’s hosiery. It remains a furniture center, but it has suffered major job losses due to international competition and is at risk of more competitive threats from Central America and China. The one bright spot in the local economy was Google. The Internet search engine company in 2007 broke ground in Lenoir on a $600 million data center after the city and county offered it millions of dollars in tax rebates to locate a so-called server farm there.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 10th Congressional District of North Carolina stretches across the state from Tennessee, where the mountains are high enough to support a modest ski industry, to the South Carolina border. It is composed mostly of small towns, and is still predominantly white. It ranks first among 435 congressional districts in the percentage of manufacturing and blue-collar jobs. The largest population center in the 10th is Hickory in Catawba County, which accounts for just over 20% of the district’s population. This remains a very Republican area—home to a rough-hewn, hill variety of Republicanism that is unsympathetic to government regulators, from factory inspectors to revenuers on the lookout for illegal stills. Despite job losses and worries about international competition that increasingly have made this a service economy, it remains one of North Carolina’s most Republican districts. George W. Bush got 67% here in 2004, and John McCain 63% in 2008.