Wednesday, April 30, 2008

North Carolina First Glimpse

For most of this campaign season, when focusing on rural voters, commentary has equated “rural” with “white.” In many southern states, however, there is a sizable African-American rural population. I’ve touched briefly on this in my Mississippi posts and want to return to it now with North Carolina. Whereas I talked about the Mississippi 2nd District as being largely African American and rural, North Carolina’s 1st is even more so. The largest city, Goldsboro, has just over 36,000 people. The counties that make up the district are all relatively small population wise.

North Carolina 1 is tobacco country, pure and simple. There are more tobacco farmers in this district than any other in the country. "CQ’s Politics in America" describes the district:

“The area’s economy is based overwhelmingly on manufacturing and agriculture. Cotton and peanut fields prevail in the northern counties, while tobacco, hogs and poultry dominate further south. Manufacturing, primarily in textile and lumber products, is scattered throughout.”

Demographically, the district is 50% African American and has the lowest median income and education levels in the state. If you look at the cluster of counties that make up the district, those counties with the highest percentage of African Americans make up the north and central section (Northampton, Hertford, Edgecombe, and Bertie). It has been a Democratic stronghold for generations, although white Democrats supported George Wallace in 1968 and Richard Nixon in 1972. In 2004, the 1st was the second most Democratic in the state, giving Kerry 57%.

Looking toward Tuesday, I wonder if we’ll see the same type of racialized voting that has been prevalent up to this point. While Obama should win the district, it will be interesting to see his margins and level of support among white voters.

In Congress, the district is represented by Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D), whose personal back story is reflective of the complicated, yet fascinating, racial history of the area. Again, "CQ’s Politics in America":

“His great-grandfather was a white slave owner who conceived a child with one of his slaves. The child, Butterfield’s grandfather, was born in the final days of slavery and became a minister.”

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