Rep. Brad Miller (D)
North Carolina 13th District
Metropolitan growth has come to the long-humble countryside of North Carolina. A generation ago, Raleigh, Durham, Burlington, and Greensboro were a string of small cities connected by Interstate 85 across the central Piedmont, moderately prosperous, with textile, tobacco, and furniture factories, but not very big. Just a few miles from the center of town, farm fields started, dotted by country towns with barbecue restaurants and churches. The counties to the north were almost purely rural, with a few factory towns. Today, many of the old tobacco fields are used for growing other crops. The booming metropolitan areas of North Carolina have spread far beyond the old city and county lines into the adjacent counties. Wake County, which includes Raleigh, grew 33% between 2000 and 2007. Rural roads are clogged in the morning with commuters headed for jobs in new office parks, and income levels have risen far above what they once were.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Much of this territory makes up the 13th Congressional District of North Carolina, created after the 2000 census. Half of its residents live in Wake County, including the center of Raleigh and its expanding skyline. A tangent goes off to North Carolina State University and much of the northern part of the county, except for the affluent new subdivisions that are mostly in the 4th District. In 2007, Forbes magazine rated Raleigh the nation’s best city in which to find a job. Another 16% of district residents live in Guilford County, with African-American neighborhoods and the University of North Carolina’s Greensboro campus. The rest of the district includes all or most of four counties up to the Virginia border—Granville, Person, Caswell, and Rockingham—with fairly large black percentages. The district lines were drawn by the Democratic Legislature to produce a new Democratic district, one of the few created in the South in recent decades that does not have a majority or near-majority of blacks. The district is 28% African-American. But the rural counties have a historical Democratic heritage, and university neighborhoods are heavily Democratic. The district has been closely divided in presidential races, but Barack Obama won it with 59.5% in 2008. George W. Bush won the district narrowly in 2000 and John Kerry won it by a slight margin in 2004.
Rep. Brad Miller (D)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: May 19, 1953, Fayetteville .
Education: U. of NC, B.A. 1975, London Schl. of Economics, M.S.C. 1978, Columbia U., J.D. 1979.
Elected office: NC House of Reps., 1992-94; NC Senate, 1996-2002.
Professional Career: Clerk, Judge J. Dickson Phillips Jr., U.S. Fourth Circuit Ct. of Appeals, Durham, 1979-80; Practicing atty., 1980-2002.
The congressman from the 13th District is Brad Miller, a Democrat first elected in 2002. Born and raised in Fayetteville by his widowed mother, a school cafeteria bookkeeper, he graduated from the University of North Carolina. He went on to get a master’s degree at the London School of Economics and a law degree from Columbia University. After clerking for a federal appeals court judge, Miller practiced law in Raleigh. In 1992, he was elected to the state House. But he was swept away in the 1994 Republican landslide. He was elected in 1996 to the state Senate where, like many members of the House, he had a hand in drawing his own congressional district as chairman of the Senate’s redistricting committee.
|Brad Miller (D)||221,379||(66%)||($925,429)|
|Hugh Webster (R)||114,383||(34%)||($34,655)|
|Brad Miller (D)||113,254||(88%)|
|Derald Hafner (D)||14,744||(12%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (64%), 2004 (59%), 2002 (55%)
Miller drew a district very much in his own political interest, but he couldn’t be sure he could get the seat. Utah brought a lawsuit against the Census Bureau, arguing that because the census counted service members overseas with legal residence North Carolina, it should count Mormon missionaries domiciled in Utah but serving overseas. Such a count would have increased Utah’s population enough that it, rather than North Carolina, would have gotten the 435th congressional district that year. Utah lost in federal court, and the Supreme Court affirmed the decision.
Four experienced Democrats, including Miller, launched an 11-week sprint to the September primary, which seemed likely to determine the winner in November. Miller raised the most money and got early endorsements from teachers’ and other labor unions, plus the League of Conservation Voters. In the primary, he led with 40%, enough to avoid a runoff, to 24% for former Rep. Robin Britt. In the general election, Miller faced Carolyn Grant, a commercial real estate broker and former head of the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. Grant called Miller a tax-and-spend Democrat, and also criticized him for voting to cut prescription drug assistance for the elderly. Miller said that North Carolina had the second-best record of any state in cutting taxes while he was in the Legislature. Grant got little help from national Republicans, and Miller won 55%-42%.
In the House, Miller has a relatively liberal record, especially on economics. He joined the Financial Services Committee, a useful post for home-state banking interests. In November 2006, the Raleigh News & Observer wrote that Miller “remains somewhat uncomfortable with the rituals of Congress” and often sits alone on the House floor reading memos while colleagues chat up each other in the aisles. “He doesn’t make a lot of noise, but he’s doing the work,” Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge told the newspaper. He also displays flashes of wry humor. Following a congressional delegation visit to Antarctica in 2006, Miller said of his trip to the magnetic South Pole: “I thought, ‘Every other politician who thinks the world is revolving around them is wrong. It actually revolves around me.’”
With Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., he was able to get passed in November 2007 a bill to prohibit predatory lending practices. He spearheaded a proposal approved by the House Judiciary Committee in 2007 to permit bankruptcy judges to lighten mortgage terms to help borrowers avoid foreclosure, although the bill did not come up for a vote. When Democrats became the majority party in 2007, Miller ascended to chairman of the Science and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, where he explored allegations of politicizing of scientific research in the Bush administration. He clashed with NASA over its inspector general’s job performance and the agency’s refusal to release a study about the safety of commercial aviation. Then-Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, criticized Miller for suggesting that polar bears should be classified as an endangered species.
Back home, he appears safe. In 2006, his Republican challenger was Vernon Robinson, an outspoken and conservative African-American, who criticized Miller as soft on illegal immigration and gay rights. “If Miller had his way, America would be nothing but one big fiesta for illegal aliens and homosexuals,” said Robinson, who was well funded but received little national party assistance. Miller won 64%-36%. In 2008, he seriously considered challenging Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole, and perhaps wishes now that he had. Dole lost the election to a less-seasoned candidate than Miller, Democratic state Sen. Kay Hagan, in one of the biggest upsets of the year. Miller went on to be re-elected easily.