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Republican Pantano voices unhappiness with Republican lawmakers' new Congressional maps

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THE FOLLOWING IS AN OPEN LETTER THE PANTANO CAMPAIGN SENT TO THE NEWSROOM:

Dear Members of the North Carolina State House and State Senate:

We, the people of Coastal Southeastern North Carolina, are dismayed and disappointed by the newly proposed Congressional district maps, Rucho-Lewis 2A.

I speak for thousands of concerned friends and neighbors of all political stripes that object to the same kind of gerrymandering and backroom deal making that we had believed ended with the 2010 election.

In the memo that accompanied the first proposed Congressional districts, Senator Rucho and Representative Lewis stressed that one of their top priorities was to respect "communities of interest" and keep them intact. The demand for compact districts with communities of interest is a historic Republican position going back at least fifty years. .

These newly drawn maps do nothing to respect "communities of interest" in Coastal Southeastern North Carolina and I suspect elsewhere. Instead, they cut, slice, dice, and divide the communities and the people that make up the southeastern coast with its unique history, opportunities and challenges.

This new map takes all of Brunswick County, most of New Hanover County, and coastal Pender County and sticks it in a district that snakes its way north to the Raleigh suburbs while reaching west all the way into Hoke County. Then it takes Downtown Wilmington, the economic and business center of Coastal Southeastern North Carolina, and the remaining two-thirds of Pender County and sticks it in a district that runs all the way to the Virginia state line, in Gates County, well over 5 hours away.

Cutting, slicing, dicing, and dividing the southeastern coast like this does a great disservice to these communities and the people that live here. Coastal Southeastern North Carolina deserves and needs to be in one Congressional district. Our region is a proud and important foundation of our state with strong historical and economic ties that bind together our communities and the people that live in them. The first shots of the American Revolution were fired here at Moore's Creek battlefield, and a citizen-led political movement that helped "sweep the bums out" of Raleigh reached an apex here. Doubt it? Ask all the new freshman that come from the Southeast.

The southeastern coast has been one of the fastest growing dynamic areas of the state but it's also been hit strongly by the sharp economic downturn with high unemployment rates, closing businesses, plummeting real estate markets, and a sharp decline in tourism. How will dividing this community and parsing it together with far flung interests improve the quality of life for its residents, create jobs or protect the coast?

I understand that by advocating for the return of Downtown Wilmington and Western Pender County to our coastal district, I am hurting the GOP's electoral advantage and even my own. By adding back the Democrat voters that rightfully belong here I am making my own hill climb steeper, but I do it of clear conscience. After fighting two wars for this country and burying a lot of young men, I expect more from our leadership then self-dealing. I expect you to do the right thing, even when it is hard.

I am fully aware that the courts make your redistricting job much harder than it otherwise would be, but I also know that a fair and legal map could be drawn without destroying the community of interest that Southeastern North Carolina forms. I know that because you did it in an earlier version.

I urge you to redraw the proposed new Congressional redistricting maps in a manner that respects "communities of interest" and keeps coastal Southeastern North Carolina intact in one, compact Congressional district. And if the map is not redrawn, I respectfully ask you and your colleagues to vote against Rucho-Lewis 2A.

I remain Semper Fidelis,

Ilario Pantano

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