NC-01: Butterfield Retirement Puts Another Democratic Seat at High Risk

November 17, 2021

This afternoon, multiple North Carolina-based news outlets are reporting that Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield (NC-01) will announce his retirement tomorrow. Butterfield, 74, is a former civil rights attorney, Superior Court judge and Congressional Black Caucus chair who has held the rural, Black plurality 1st CD easily since 2004. But his traditionally blue seat is under assault from Republicans in redistricting, and his retirement adds to Democrats' risk.

On November 4, North Carolina Republicans passed a new map that lowers the Black share in Butterfield's seat from 44 percent to 41 percent and carves the heavily Democratic college town of Greenville out of the seat (relabeled the 2nd CD), narrowing the district from Biden +9 to Biden +2. That alone would have been enough to imperil Butterfield, who defeated Republican pro-Trump activist Sandy Smith 54 percent to 46 percent in 2020.

In addition, demographic trends are working against Democrats here: North Carolina's rural Black Belt is steadily depopulating, shrinking Democratic margins every year. GOP legislators aimed to capitalize on those patterns when drawing the new map.

However, legal wrangling over the

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