Doing his job

Published 12:35 am Wednesday, July 13, 2011

State Rep. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, deserves praise for working to keep Beaufort County whole in one state House district.

A majority-minority House district devised as part of the Republican leadership’s plan to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act would have carved nearly all of the city of Washington out of Beaufort County, connecting it through a slender, crooked finger to a district with most of its population in north-central and western Pitt County.

This plan sparked warranted – and bipartisan – disapproval from numerous political leaders throughout Beaufort County, including members of the minority community.

Many of these leaders said dividing the county among different House districts would soften its strength in the Legislature.

At a time when this rural county is struggling to attract jobs and maintain infrastructure, the last thing it needs is less clout in the state capital.

After the divisive original plan was released in June, Cook, a member of the House redistricting committee, indicated the proposed lines might be necessary to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

Analyses by the Washington Daily News and others cast doubt on that point and other potential justifications for splitting this county into pieces.

Cook listened to constituents who were upset about the district blueprint, and took those concerns directly to the Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, senior chairman of the House redistricting committee.

As a result, Beaufort County will be kept whole and intact in one House district, Cook assured the Daily News Monday.

Though we haven’t seen the new map as of this writing, we take Cook at his word. We also congratulate him for listening to the people he serves.

Despite the political risks he might face, Cook came to understand that the split-county issue wasn’t as much about politics as it was about service to the people of his adopted home county.

Cook’s actions took courage, and he should be applauded for doing the right thing.