New map pits Cook v. Spear

Published 12:49 am Thursday, July 14, 2011

A new state House district drawn by Republican legislative leaders could pit two incumbents – one a Democrat, the other a Republican – against each other in November 2012.

The reshaped House District 6 would place in the same district Rep. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort, and Rep. Tim Spear, D-Washington.

Spear is a Creswell resident.

Cook resides in the Cypress Landing community near Chocowinity.

In an interview Tuesday, Cook, a retired electric-utility executive from the Washington, D.C., area, said it’s regrettable the most recent district blueprint would make him go head to head with Spear.

Spear, a retired clerk of Superior Court, is one of the five Democrats who recently helped override Gov. Beverly Perdue’s veto of the GOP-favored state budget.

Cook said Spear owns property in more than one county, and could choose to run in another county. The Daily News couldn’t confirm that point immediately.

“If he stays there (in Washington County), I think I can beat him,” Cook stated. “I think there’s a more conservative group of people out there than there would have been in my old district.”

A message left for Spear wasn’t returned Wednesday.

Zebedee Taylor is chairman of the Washington County Democratic Party.

On Wednesday, Taylor said he had seen the House map online, but hadn’t had a chance to study it or form a definite opinion.

“The county obviously would be concerned since Tim is from Washington County,” Taylor said. “Obviously, the citizens here would be concerned because he’s one of ours.”

In an interview on Monday, Surry Everett, chairman of the Beaufort County Democratic Party, said he was glad his county would be kept whole in one House district, but ascribed the GOP’s redistricting maneuvers to political motives.

“The only thing I’ve seen so far shows that the Republicans are going to do everything they can to keep Republicans in office,” Everett said. “It’s a political maneuver. The Democrats have done it, maybe not as bad as the Republicans this time. Who knows?”

Cook is a member of the House redistricting committee. He said he had met Spear before, but hadn’t spoken with him about redistricting.

“We have not discussed this at all,” Cook commented. “I doubt we would ever discuss this.”

Cook confirmed Spear’s veto-override vote is one of the reasons he’d prefer not to run against the Democrat.

“That’s, of course, one of the reasons I hate to see him pitted against me,” Cook said. “If you’re going to have Democrats, I guess you ought to have some good ones. Of the ones I’ve seen, he impressed me the most.”

Cook also mourned the potential loss of his Pitt County precincts to a neighboring district, and pointed to his re-election efforts, which could begin this summer.

“I know a lot of nice folks in Pitt County,” he said. “I hate to lose that as my part of my district, but you win some, you lose some. … I think it’s too early to start worrying about what my district will be like. In fact, I will have to start trying to raise money in the next two or three months, and I guess I will have to assume the old or current district for that purpose. As far as I can tell this district thing could drag on for quite a while.”

The proposed new House map, published on the front page of Wednesday’s Daily News, would remove from District 6 eight precincts in northeast Pitt County.

The House leadership would pair Beaufort County – the most heavily populated of the potential district’s counties – and Washington County in this district, along with northeast Craven County.

At present, Cook represents Beaufort and northeast Pitt counties.

Spear currently represents Dare, Hyde, Chowan and Washington counties.

Freshly crafted redistricting maps, affecting all of the state’s House and Senate districts, were released Tuesday on the N.C. General Assembly’s website.

Lawmakers haven’t approved these maps, at least not yet. The Legislature convened Wednesday, with redistricting as its main focus. Cook said a final vote on the maps might be taken the last week of this month.

Lawmakers conduct redistricting, the redrawing of legislative and congressional district lines, every 10 years following the U.S. census.

Majority-minority districts made public in June would have taken nearly all of the city of Washington out of Beaufort County and settled it into a district made up mostly of western Pitt County.

Numerous local political leaders opposed that plan as one that would diminish Beaufort County’s clout in the Legislature. Cook took those concerns to GOP leaders in the House, and the original plan was scuttled in favor of the outlines rolled out Tuesday.