ALBEMARLE — Now that new districts have been approved by the North Carolina General Assembly, Stanly County will once again be all in one N.C. House district rather than split into two as it was in the previous maps. Rep. Wayne Sasser, a Republican who represents the district in Raleigh, spoke with SCJ on his reaction to the new lines.
“I’m really happy to have all of Stanly back together,” Sasser said in a Nov. 12 interview with SCJ. “Just tickled to death to have all of Stanly back. It’s really difficult to take care of three counties.”
Districts further east and west in the state often have included several counties to create a large enough population to necessitate a district. But this can be more difficult for legislators, who then need to travel longer distances and work with multiple town councils and county commissions.
“It’ll be a lot easier to just have two full counties to take care of, and I just look forward to the opportunity,” Sasser said.
Sasser’s current district, NC House District 67, includes most of Stanly County, but parts of northeastern Stanly and Albemarle are in District 66, represented by Rep. Ben Moss. In addition, Sasser’s current district includes much of eastern Cabarrus County and southern Rowan County.
The new District 67 will now represent all of Stanly and Montgomery counties and nothing else.
While Sasser, if reelected, will no longer represent Cabarrus and Rowan in the new district, he will have to quickly solidify relationships in Montgomery County. He says he’s already laid a lot of the groundwork for this.
“Yeah, I know those people well,” Sasser said on local leaders in Montgomery. “The judge district happens to be the same as Stanly’s, so I know all the judges over there. Back when I first started running in the first primary against Justin [Burr, the last H.D. 67 representative], it was part of Montgomery and all of Stanly, so I’ve been there four or five times to meet some of those people and introduce myself before the district got changed and I didn’t have Montgomery anymore. That’s the way I go to Raleigh and back at least twice a week, and I know a lot of those people and just look forward to spending a lot of time over there.”
Sasser also said the district makes more sense because Stanly has more in common with Montgomery — a rural county that shares the Uwharrie National Forest — than Cabarrus and Rowan, which are more suburban-Charlotte counties.
“If you look at that budget [that the General Assembly is finalizing], I think you’ll see really fast that not only Uwharrie but also Morrow Mountain, that everything park-wise, we just have got a great resource there for people to come, spend their money and go back home,” he said of Stanly and Montgomery’s parks.
For those in the parts of eastern Stanly that Sasser has not represented, he said he’s also been working with them and is ready to represent them.
“It’s kind of been my goal and intention all along to take care of all of Stanly County even though some of it wasn’t in my district, and I think you’ll see that in the budget,” Sasser said.
Sasser added that he thinks the budget should get passed on Thursday and, “Then we’ll see what the governor does.”
Along with the positives of being paired with Montgomery County comes a challenge — the fact there is now a whole new crop of ambitious politically minded people that may decide to run for the seat.
“There are some rumors out there, and I just say to people, ‘It’s a democracy. If you want to run, just sign up, and we’ll just let the voters decide,” Sasser said. “And win, lose or draw, it’s a good thing because we’re in a country where we have the right to vote. It’s not the guy who has the biggest gun or the most ammunition.”
He said the district is not quite as Republican as the last one — which he said was statistically one of the five most Republican N.C. House districts — but it is still conservative enough where the primaries are likely to be the most crucial part of the election.
“It’s not quite that strong this time, but it’s still strong enough. It might not be me, but it’ll be a Republican in that seat,” Sasser said. “And we’ll see what happens in December whether I get primaried or not, and we’ll go from there.”
In terms of whether the districts will stand or court challenges will force more changes, as they did over the last decade to other maps, Sasser said. “Who can guess what a bunch of judges are going to do? But, no, I think the districts are solid. You know, everybody had an opportunity to have input.”
He continued, saying, “Had the Democrats been in control, they would have drawn different maps because when you’re the party in the majority, the [N.C.] Constitution says you get to draw the maps. But you could probably draw them up 100 different ways and nobody would ever be completely satisfied. I think the maps are fair, and now the people get to vote, and we’ll see what happens.”