The U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., hosts both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center

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The U.S. House of Representatives, including 13 members from North Carolina, voted to impeach President Donald Trump late Wednesday.

As was mostly the case nationally, North Carolina’s congressional delegation split along party lines.

Carolina Public Press takes a closer look at impeachment and the votes of each North Carolina member of Congress, as well as how it could affect their political futures in 2020.

To impeach a president

Impeachment of a president functions much like an indictment of an ordinary individual on serious criminal charges. In this case, the House considered two articles of impeachment against Trump and voted to impeach on both – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The vote was similar on each charge, with two Democrats crossing party lines to oppose the abuse-of-power charge and three opposing the obstruction charge. One independent member of Congress voted to impeach on both articles, and one Democrat, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, voted present on both articles. A few members of Congress also did not vote.

While ordinary citizens are entitled to a trial by juries of their peers, a president constitutionally is tried by the U.S. Senate, with conviction requiring a two-thirds supermajority, which would currently be 67 votes.

That’s a high threshold in the 100-member Senate. In recent years, neither major political party has had a majority of that size. Trump is the third president to be impeached, though the first Republican. No president has ever been convicted.

Like the others impeached chief executives, predictions suggest the Senate, controlled by Trump’s fellow Republicans, won’t have the votes to convict him. An open question, however, is how voters across the country will respond to an impeached president and incumbent members of the House and Senate on the ballot in 2020.

To impeach or not to impeach: how the NC delegation voted

North Carolina currently has 13 members of the House of Representatives based on the 2010 census, the ninth-most of any state. This will be reassessed following the 2020 census, so the number will change for the 2022 elections.

While that would normally be the next time elections would be conducted with new districts, litigation over what courts have called hyperpartisan gerrymandering forced the creation of new congressional districts for 2020.

As a result, many of the North Carolina House members deciding on impeachment Wednesday will also be facing a new political map for next year. Some have decided not to run again. Others are running in substantially new districts whose voters are not necessarily familiar with or politically inclined toward the incumbents.

As a result, the impeachment vote has the potential to loom large in the minds of voters in these new districts in 2020.

The state’s House delegation is currently made up of 10 Republicans and three Democrats. Predictions are that the new map will favor a shift toward more Democrats, but some districts may be fairly competitive and politically unpredictable, with potential surprises on both sides.

DISTRICT 1: Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-Wilson, who has represented District 1 since 2004, voted to impeach.

Butterfield has filed to seek re-election next year in District 1. Republican Ethan Baca has also filed.

The northeastern district had a strong Democratic edge under the old maps. It lost areas of Durham and Granville counties while gaining areas of Nash, Wayne, Greene, Wilson and Pitt counties on the new maps.

The new District 1 is still expected to favor Democrats, but by a much smaller margin than before.

DISTRICT 2: Rep. George Holding, R-Raleigh, who has represented District 2 since 2013, voted against impeachment.

Holding has indicated he will not seek re-election in 2020, which previously had a strong Republican edge but will now have a modest Democratic edge. The central district lost many areas outside Wake County in the new map design, while adding more of Raleigh.

Filed to run for District 2 so far are Democrats Monika Johnson-Hostler, Deborah Ross and Andrew Terrell; Republican Alan Swain and Libertarian Jeff Matemu.

DISTRICT 3: Rep. Greg Murphy, R-Greenville, who won a special election in September, voted against impeachment.

Murphy has filed to defend the seat in 2020. So far, Democrat Daryl Farrow has filed to challenge Murphy.

District 3, which includes the state’s central and northern coastal counties and adjacent inland areas, was heavily Republican under the old map and is expected to be about equally Republican under the new one, which made few changes to this district.

DISTRICT 4: Rep. David Price, D-Chapel Hill, who has represented District 4 since 1997, voted for impeachment.

Price has filed for reelection, as have Republican challengers Dabesh Sarkar and Steve Loor.

District 4 was heavily Democratic under the old map but now is expected to lean only slightly Democratic. The central district lost Raleigh but picked up additional suburban and rural areas in the new map.

DISTRICT 5: Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-Winston Salem, who has represented District 5 since 2005, voted against impeachment.

Foxx has filed for re-election, as have Democrat David Wilson Brown and Constitutionalist Jeff Gregory.

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District 5 was previously moderately Republican but is now expected to be heavily Republican.

The old District 5 stretched from the state’s northwestern mountains to the western portion of the Piedmont Triad. It has been largely reconfigured, eliminating the Winston-Salem area and picking up southwestern Piedmont counties, including Gaston and Cleveland.

DISTRICT 6: Rep. Mark Walker, R-Greensboro, who has represented District 6 since 2015, voted against impeachment.

Walker has announced that he will not seek re-election in the district, which was heavily redrawn and no longer includes his residence. A strong Republican district previously, the new District 6 is now expected to be strongly Democratic.

The Piedmont Triad district lost rural areas to the east and picked up all of Guilford County and the Winston-Salem portion of Forsyth County.

Filed candidates for District 6 include Democrats Bruce Davis, Rhonda Foxx, Ed Hanes Jr., Kathy Manning and Derwin Montgomery; and Republicans Lee Haywood and Laura Pichardo.

DISTRICT 7: Rep. David Rouzer, R-Benson, who has represented District 7 since 2015, voted against impeachment.

Rouzer has filed for reelection. Democratic challenger Mark Judson has also filed.

The district, which includes areas between Raleigh and Wilmington, was strongly Republican under the old map and is expected to remain about equally Republican under the new one, despite some changes in the rural portions of its territory.

DISTRICT 8: Rep. Richard Hudson, R-Concord, who has represented District 8 since 2013, voted against impeachment.

Hudson has filed to seek reelection. Also filed is Democrat Patricia Timmons-Goodson.

District 8 was modestly Republican under the old map but now is expected to lean only slightly Republican. The horizontal district runs east from Concord and lost rural areas while picking up Fayetteville and surrounding areas in the new plan.

DISTRICT 9: Rep. Dan Bishop, R-Charlotte, who was elected to represent District 9 in a September special election following irregularities in the 2018 election, voted against impeachment.

Bishop has filed to seek re-election. Democrat Harry Southerland has also filed.

District 9 was modestly Republican under the old map and is expected to remain about equally Republican under the new map. The district, which runs along the state’s central border with South Carolina, lost Fayetteville and picked up additional rural areas in the Sandhills following redistricting.

DISTRICT 10: Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-Denver, who has represented District 10 since 2005, voted against impeachment.

McHenry has filed to seek reelection. He faces primary challenges from David Johnson and Ralf Walters. Democrat David Wilson Brown has also filed.

District 10 was strongly Republican under the old map and is expected to be about equally Republican under the new map. The district was heavily redrawn. Previously, it stretched between Charlotte’s western suburbs and Asheville. The new District 10 runs from areas west and north of Charlotte to the Virginia line.

DISTRICT 11: Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Sapphire, who has represented District 11 since 2013, voted against impeachment.

Meadows announced Thursday that he will retire from Congress, and no other Republicans had filed as of Wednesday afternoon. Democrats Steve Woodsmall, Gina Collias, Moe Davis and Michael O’Shea had filed, as had Green Party candidate Tamara Zwinak.

District 11 was heavily Republican under the old map and is expected to be about equally Republican under the new map. This is despite substantial changes in the district, which lost some central mountain counties but picked up most of Asheville and nearby rural areas.

DISTRICT 12: Rep. Alma Adams, D-Charlotte, who has represented District 12 since 2014, voted to impeach.

Adams has filed for reelection. Republican Bill Brewster has also filed.

The district was heavily Democratic and is expected to remain heavily Democratic with the new map. Its territory changed only slightly, with the inclusion of some additional areas of Mecklenburg County.

DISTRICT 13: Rep. Ted Budd, R-Advance, who has represented District 13 since 2017, voted against impeachment.

Budd has filed for reelection and did not face any opposition as of Wednesday afternoon.

District 13 was previously moderately Republican but is now expected to be strongly Republican. The district lost Greensboro and picked up central suburban and rural areas between the Piedmont Triad and Triangle.

A question for the Senate

The trial of President Trump in the Senate could potentially highlight the role of both senators from North Carolina.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-Cornelius, has represented North Carolina in the Senate since 2015. Tillis has made multiple statements indicating he opposes impeachment.

He issued a statement following Wednesday’s impeachment vote calling it “blatantly partisan.”

Tillis has filed to seek reelection in 2020. Filed to challenge him are Democrats Trevor Fuller, Steve Swenson, Cal Cunningham, Atul Goel and Erica Smith; and Libertarian Shannon Bray.

Since the senators are elected statewide, litigation over gerrymandering does not affect the makeup of their constituency.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-Winston-Salem, has represented the state in the Senate since 2005.

Burr made multiple statements as recently as November indicating that he did not want to take a position on impeachment. However, more recently he has repeated the White House’s talking points on the related issue of supposed Democratic ties to Ukraine.

Burr’s term will not end until 2022. He said during this 2016 reelection campaign that he would not run against in 2022.

A history of impeachment

The first president to be impeached was North Carolina native Andrew Johnson, a Democrat who represented Tennessee in the Senate before the Civil War. Like many Tennesseans and North Carolinians, Johnson disagreed with his state’s secession from the Union.

Johnson continued in federal office through the Civil War and did not recognize the rebel Confederacy’s claims to be a legitimate government. As a result, President Abraham Lincoln, an Illinois Republican, turned to Johnson to form a bipartisan “Union” ticket during the 1864 presidential election.

But when Lincoln died by an assassin’s hand early in his second term, Johnson became president and was immediately unpopular with Republicans in Congress who wanted much more aggressive measures to dismantle slavery and white supremacy than Johnson did.

To limit Johnson’s power, Congress passed a constitutionally dubious measure requiring him to get approval to remove a member of the Cabinet. Johnson removed the secretary of war anyway. This led to his impeachment in early 1868. The Senate came up short on the votes to convict Johnson by one vote.

Despite the failed impeachment, Republicans lost only a small number of seats in Congress and won the White House in 1868.

The second presidential impeachment came in 1998 against President Bill Clinton, an Arkansas Democrat. Clinton faced lawsuits over alleged inappropriate conduct with women. In one case, he was deposed about a relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinski and gave testimony that was later shown to be false.

The Republican House of Representatives impeached Clinton for having given false testimony under oath, but popular opinion was strongly against the action. Although also controlled by Republicans, the Senate fell well short of the votes to convict the president on charges that, to many, did not appear directly related to his job duties.

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Voters were generally hostile to Clinton’s impeachment, and Republicans lost many seats in the 1998 election that fall.

The closest a president has come to conviction by the Senate was likely President Richard Nixon, a California Republican. The House was considering impeaching Nixon over break-ins to political opponents’ offices at the Watergate hotel in Washington, and subsequent efforts to cover up the incident and related activities.

Nixon resigned in 1974 when he was advised that enough members of his own party would vote against him for him to be both impeached and convicted. His successor, President Gerald Ford, pardoned Nixon so that he was never tried on the Watergate allegations.

U.S. Sen. Sam Ervin, D-Morganton, played a key role during the inquiries into Nixon’s alleged misconduct, serving as chair of the Senate Select Committee to Investigate Campaign Practices, more commonly known as the Senate Watergate Committee.

Despite considerable division in the country over potential impeachment of Nixon, Democrats padded their majorities in both houses of Congress in the 1974 elections.

Editor’s note: The story has been updated to reflect that U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows announced Thursday that he will retire from Congress.


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Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor is the managing editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact him at ftaylor@carolinapublicpress.org.

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