Rep. Mike McIntyre (D)
North Carolina 7th District
Southernmost North Carolina was long a somnolent part of America. Its one port, Wilmington, was far overshadowed by Charleston, S.C., and Norfolk, Va. Its miles of beaches seemed too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter to attract many tourists. Its inland farmlands were mainly planted in tobacco. Tobacco was America’s first export crop, and one that can be cultivated profitably in only a few places in the world. Under the quota system established in 1938, tobacco farmers could make a living off small plots; it probably produced more voters per federally assisted acre than any other crop. But in recent decades, as smoking declined and tobacco companies were hit by lawsuits, tobacco fell out of favor with the public. In 2004, Congress passed a $10 billion buyout and in the process abolished the quota system. So tobacco farmers are diversifying; some have switched to blueberries, pumpkins, and other crops.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The coastal counties of southern North Carolina and some inland counties, nevertheless, have been growing fast. One reason is the military. Wilmington is home to the World War II battleship USS North Carolina, and a little farther south, the Army runs the 16,000-acre Military Ocean Terminal at Sunny Point, the largest ammunition port in the United States, and the Army’s main deep-water port on the East Coast. The state is planning a new deep-water port in Brunswick County near Southport. Condominiums have sprouted along the beaches north and south of Wilmington, and tourism has boomed. This area also has some of the busiest American movie- and television-production facilities outside Los Angeles, and the state Legislature in 2006 approved new incentives to farther boost the business. In Sampson and Duplin counties, the growth industry is hog farming, which has been criticized by environmentalists for its enormous output of hog waste. One Smithfield Foods facility, which is believed to be the largest slaughterhouse in the world, handles 8.5 million animals a year. The company is among those researching the potential for turning the abundance of methane gas produced by the hog waste on the farms into a usable source of energy.
The 7th Congressional District of North Carolina covers much of this territory. The district consists of three main areas: the Wilmington region, with affluent condo dwellers along the beach and retiree subdivisions reclaimed from timbered-out pinelands further inland; the outskirts of Fayetteville, heavily dependent on Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base; and economically disadvantaged Robeson County, the home of the Lumbee Indians, whose origins have been lost to antiquity but who were recognized as a tribe by the state in 1885. For many years, this was a solidly Democratic district. Robeson County—with 20% of the district’s population, where whites, blacks, and Lumbees each constitute about a third of the population—remains heavily Democratic in both national and state elections. But the Wilmington area and the hog-farming counties are now Republican. The Fayetteville area and the old tobacco counties are politically marginal. The result is a district Republican in national contests but still Democratic in some state races. George W. Bush twice won the district, and Republican John McCain also won here in 2008, 52%-47%.
Rep. Mike McIntyre (D)
Elected: 1996, 7th term.
Born: Aug. 6, 1956, Lumberton .
Education: U. of NC, B.A. 1978, J.D. 1981.
Family: Married (Dee); 2 children.
Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1981–96.
The congressman from the 7th District is Mike McIntyre, a Democrat first elected in 1996. McIntyre grew up in Lumberton, in Robeson County, graduated from college and law school at Chapel Hill, and practiced law in Lumberton, where his family has been prominent for 200 years. When he was an intern in the office of Democratic Rep. Charlie Rose, where he watched the Watergate hearings and President Nixon’s resignation speech, he told his father that he would like to run for Rose’s seat someday. McIntyre finally got that chance in 1995, when Rose decided to retire. McIntyre’s chief opposition in the primary was Rose Marie Lowry-Townsend, a Lumbee and a liberal who had support from the National Education Association, labor unions, and national women’s groups. Lowry-Townsend led McIntyre 30%-23% in the primary. In the runoff campaign, McIntyre called for smaller government, cited his close ties to the district and his involvement in community activities, and got a boost from local African-American leaders, who supported him. He won 52%-48%. In the general election, McIntyre’s platform was almost as conservative as that of his Republican opponent, New Hanover County Commissioner Bill Caster, who ridiculed McIntyre’s emphasis on his community ties. “While it’s all well and good to coach Little League, that doesn’t mean you’re ready to go to Congress,” Caster said. McIntyre won 53%-46%.
|Mike McIntyre (D)||215,383||(69%)||($1,160,679)|
|Will Breazeale (R)||97,472||(31%)||($89,219)|
|Mike McIntyre (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (73%), 2004 (73%), 2002 (71%), 2000 (70%), 1998 (91%), 1996 (53%)
McIntyre joined the conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats and got seats on Armed Services and Agriculture. His voting record—conservative among Democrats, especially on cultural issues—is centrist in the House as a whole. He voted for some restrictions on abortion and a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. But he supported racial quotas and preferences, and opposed government vouchers for private-school tuition. He opposed normal trade relations with China, and he sought to impose a higher tariff on new imports of Caribbean Basin footwear. Converse’s plant west of Lumberton was once the country’s largest shoe factory. He proposed additional subsistence payments and job-training assistance for workers who have lost their jobs because of the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement. He estimated the loss at nearly 10,000 jobs in Robeson and Columbus counties.
As many of the troops based in the district headed to the Persian Gulf, McIntyre voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq in 2002, but he later criticized the Bush administration for its post-victory planning and its slowness in turning control over to the Iraqis. In March 2007, he voted for the bill to set a timetable to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq.
McIntyre has sought to break the deadlock in the century-old battle for federal recognition of the Lumbees. In June 2007, he won House passage of his Lumbee Recognition bill, which included a ban on gambling and gave the state jurisdiction over criminal offenses and civil actions. But it died in the Senate. He did successfully guide to passage a bill to increase grants to state agencies for veterans-outreach programs. As chairman of the Agriculture subcommittee on specialty crops and rural development, McIntyre crafted a compromise on the peanuts title of the 2008 farm bill that reduced the acres eligible for federal payments and increased the loan rate for direct payments.
In this swing district, McIntyre has not faced a serious challenge. In the traditional Southern Democrat style, he has quietly built seniority and influence.