North Carolina’s 12th, once referred to as the “I-85 district,” is vacant for the first time since it was drawn following the 1990 census, and its unique geography is again a central feature in the race to represent it.
The recent departure of longtime Democratic Rep. Melvin Watt to direct the Federal Housing Finance Agency sparked a crowded primary for the black-majority district, which Watt first won in 1992 when it stretched all the way to Durham. A half-dozen Democrats qualified to run for the heavily Democratic district, whose population centers of Charlotte in the south and Winston-Salem and Greensboro in the north are separated by about 90 miles of territory, roughly along Interstate 85.
Half of the Democratic vote comes from Charlotte’s Mecklenburg County, which four of the six candidates in the race hail from — potentially diluting some of the population advantage a leading Charlotte candidate might otherwise enjoy. Conversely, state Rep. Alma Adams is one of just two candidates from the Greensboro area, and party insiders in the state believe Adams will win enough support from her wing of the district to give her the advantage in the May 6 primary.
“Alma Adams is the person to watch,” said Democratic consultant Morgan Jackson. “She has put together the best organization, the most money and has locked away one end of that district in Greensboro.”