07/13/11 — Wayne County legislators weigh in on new legislative maps

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Wayne County legislators weigh in on new legislative maps

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on July 13, 2011 1:46 PM

Reactions were mixed this morning among Wayne County's legislative delegation as members got their first looks at the new state legislative district maps -- maps that if approved in their current forms, could result in all of Wayne's House and Senate seats being held by people outside the county.

On the Senate side, the county would be split into two districts -- District 5 and District 7.

Currently, District 5, which includes part of Wayne and Pitt counties and all of Greene, is represented by Sen. Louis Pate, R-Wayne.

Under the new map, Pate would move into District 7, which would include most of Wayne, most of Lenoir and part of Pitt. District 5, a Voting Rights Act minority majority mandated district, would still include part of Wayne, including most of Goldsboro, all of Greene and part of Pitt, as well as part of Lenoir.

"I haven't really had a chance to analyze it yet, but on paper it looks pretty good," Pate said. "I'll be glad to be getting more of Wayne County."

He said he would miss some of the supporters he's gained the last few years in Pitt and Greene, but that he is familiar with Lenoir, having represented part of that county while in the House in the 1990s.

"All in all, it looks pretty good," he said.

Sen. David Rouzer, R-Johnston, who represents District 12, which currently includes Johnston and Wayne, would see his district adjusted to exclude Wayne, but include all of Duplin, most of Sampson and a large portion of Johnston.

Over on the House side, the changes in the district lines are slightly more dramatic, even though the actual representatives could remain the same.

Rep. Efton Sager, R-Wayne, currently represents District 11, which only includes most of Wayne. Under the new map, he would move into District 4, which would include a large portion of Wayne and most of Duplin counties.

Currently District 4 is represented by Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin, and includes all of Duplin and part of Onslow. The new maps would put him and Sager in the same district -- a move that Dixon that said had to be made in order to protect the majority minority districts.

"The rules for redrawing districts number one they are required to draw the majority minority districts first and do whatever it takes to get that done," said Dixon, who lives just over the county line. "I have a tremendous interest in the southern part of Wayne County. I have a lot of friends and family there.

"If that (redistricting) is the case it will be very compatible to me."

However, Sager said, the change is not one that he's very happy about.

"Nobody likes change, but I don't particularly like the way the map is drawn out," Sager said. "But I'm sure these maps are a long way from being finalized. Right now, the way the maps are drawn, Wayne County could be represented by three different representatives and none of them be from Wayne County."

The other districts dividing up Wayne County are District 4 and District 21.

District 21, another Voting Rights Act minority majority mandated district, represented Rep. Larry Bell, D-Sampson, currently includes most of Sampson and part of Wayne. Under the new map, it would include part of Sampson, part of Duplin, part of Pender and part of Wayne, including the majority of Goldsboro.

Bell would remain in that district.

"I think I'm in it. The lines are drawn so funny, I'm having trouble finding where my house is," he said. "Just about all of my district would consist of African Americans and Democrats. It's a true minority district. But I would hope that at this point, I would be able to represent a broader group of people.

"I'm not real pleased with it. I think this district is the definition of packed. I think I can draw a much better district and it still be a minority district."

But the district that perhaps is raising the most eyebrows this morning is House District 10. Currently, District 10 is represented by Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, and includes all of Greene and Lenoir and part of Wayne counties.

Under the new maps, LaRoque would still be in District 10, but it would include parts of Lenoir, Greene, Wayne and Craven counties.

More specifically, it would include the southern and western sides of Lenoir, traveling north into the northern and western sides of Wayne, as well as the northern and eastern sides of Greene, traveling south into the western and northern sides of Craven, continuing south through that county's center.

"Weird is a good word for it," LaRoque said. "They had to draw it around two majority minority districts (District 21 and 12), but it's a very odd-shaped district. It's very non-compact.

"This is the first look I've had at it. I want to talk to some people and see why it's drawn the way it is."

-- Staff writer Steve Herring contributed to this report.