North Carolina’s 14 congressional districts are equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. But that will change under new maps approved by the GOP-led legislature last year. Among those seats almost certain to flip is the Triad’s 6th District.

With no Democrats running, some voters feel left out.

Ariyanna Clark-Drew, a student from Raleigh, is among a steady stream of early voters casting ballots at the Dudley Building at North Carolina A&T State University.

“I believe that our vote matters and that it doesn’t take much to vote and that everybody should vote,” she says.

For the last few years this area of eastern Greensboro — heavily dominated by Democrats — has been a major puzzle piece of Republican lawmakers’ efforts to redraw the state’s political maps to favor their candidates.

In the map that propelled U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning to victories for two terms, all of Guilford County was put in one district, along with portions of surrounding counties.

That won’t happen this year. Lawmakers carved the 6th District up into boundaries that heavily favor a GOP candidate.

Clark-Drew says she finds it all a little disheartening.

"I think it shows we need to bring more people into this that also care for what we care for and there needs to be more people on the ballot that care about the same things," she says.

Guilford has been split into three districts that comprise a giant chunk of North Carolina. Northwest Guilford is now part of the 5th District that includes the entire High Country. Western Guilford is in the 9th, which runs all the way southeast to include Hoke County, which is near Fayetteville.

The 6th runs southwest to the Mecklenburg County line. Manning didn’t see a path to victory and decided not to run. No other Democrat stepped up. Without court intervention, the GOP primary will decide the winner of the 6th District. 

“The citizen in this congressional district does not have a choice, period," says Earl Jones of Greensboro, a former Democratic state representative and a plaintiff in a case trying to get the maps thrown out.

“It's kind of a mini-dictatorship," he says. "They choose at the state legislative level who’s going to be your representative, and the people do not have a choice.”

Jones believes it’s unlikely the courts will decide to interrupt the 2024 election now that the primary is well underway. He’s hoping things will be different for the 2026 election.

Critics say gerrymandering leads to extreme candidates.

That’s a concern for voters like Nathan Lattimore, president of High Point University’s College Democrats.

He worries that with no one like Manning on the ballot in November, there’s little incentive for Republican candidates to appeal to the middle. That may mean a hard-right congressperson in office who would be least likely to listen to Democrat’s concerns.

“As a young person, and as a college Democrat, we're going to be focused on statewide races, we're going to be focused on judicial races," he says. "The way to beat this gerrymandering is by taking back our courts.” 

For Republican 6th District voters, the congressional primary features a bumper crop of well-known candidates.

Mark Walker represented the district for three terms in Washington;

Christian Castelli was the GOP nominee in 2022; Lobbyist Addison McDowell is endorsed by former President Donald Trump; Bo Hines had Trump’s endorsement in a failed congressional run in 2022; Jay Wagner is the former mayor of High Point; Mary Ann Contogiannis ran for the seat in the GOP primary two years ago, finishing third.

As Wake Forest University political scientist John Dinan notes, it’s an unusually deep bench of candidates.

"Sometimes you see four or five candidates in the race, and one or two has endorsements, name recognition, and money," he says. "Here, we have at least four candidates in that race who have some significant source of support.”

Dinan says it’s easy to imagine that — with so many well-known Republicans in the race — none of them will be able to reach the 30 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. 

If there’s a bright side for Democrats, Dinan points out that the party has done a notable job fielding candidates to make more legislative races competitive.

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