06Kirk deViere A redrawn boundary of North Carolina Senate District 21 is said to have contributed to the election victory this month of Democratic candidate, now Senator-elect, Kirk deViere. The district was gerrymandered in 2010 by the Republican General Assembly to exclude many African-American voters. At that time, former Fayetteville City Councilman Wesley Meredith, a Republican, defeated incumbent Democratic Margaret Dickson. Meredith won the seat in the wake of what was characterized by politicos as a nasty, personal campaign against Dickson.

Meredith had little trouble beating the opposition every two years after that. This year was the first general election since the district was redrawn in  2017 as a result of a federal lawsuit that challenged 28 legislative districts as racial gerrymanders. With more than 52 percent of registered voters casting ballots, North Carolina had better turnout than the nation as a whole.

The national turnout was “the highest turnout for a midterm election since 18-year-olds received the right to vote,” the Bipartisan Policy Center said in an email.

The new legislative redistricting map rounded off and pushed the boundaries for Senate District 21 slightly west and farther north. That left more Democratic voters in the adjacent 19th district. Democrats had hoped to flip that seat in their favor in efforts to end Senate Republicans’ 35-15 veto-proof supermajority, which they did. The lines no longer favored Republicans and comprised what FLIPNC called North Carolina’s third most flipable Senate district in the state.

Democrats needed to pick up six seats to eliminate the supermajority. “Now we need to find ways to compromise,” deViere said. The election “brought back a balance in state government and the governor’s veto stamp will actually work now.”

deViere’s win was close. Of 59,000 ballots cast in the district election, 433 votes made the difference for deViere. “In the last 90 days, we knocked on 30,000 doors, 300 to 400 doors a week,” deViere said. “That was the biggest piece of our campaign.”

The 2018 North Carolina Voter Guide, published by Common Cause, said deViere’s legislative priorities include reinvesting in our public schools and teachers; providing affordable health care for all through expansion of Medicaid; and increasing North Carolina’s minimum wage.

“I strongly support an independent redistricting process,” deViere said. “Extreme partisan gerrymandering results in extreme partisan policies, not solutions.”

He added, “I understood how to build a team to make a winning force when I was on city council; I hit the ground running.”

As for his personal life, the Senator-elect said he and his wife Jenny “will do what we can to minimize the impact on the family.” They have a 2-year-old son. “She’ll continue to work,” deViere said of his wife, “and I will balance legislative work with my family and business.”

They haven’t decided whether to take an apartment in Raleigh.

Photo:  Kirk deViere

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