Congressman Wiley Nickel will not run for reelection in 2024, eyeing run for Senate

Michael Perchick Image
Thursday, December 14, 2023
Congressman Wiley Nickel will not run for reelection citing new maps
Nickel defeated Bo Hines in a 2022 race that was seen as a key win for Democrats as they fought to keep control of the House.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Congressman Wiley Nickel has announced he will not run for reelection in his district after the state maps were recently changed.

Nickel told ABC11 that he instead will focus on a potential Senate run in 2026.

Nickel represents the 13th district in North Carolina. That district was reshaped by the General Assembly, where Republicans admittedly wielded their majority to give themselves an edge in a reliably Republican but regularly purple state.

During an event Thursday, in front of a packed room of supporters and fellow elected officials inside The Matthews House in Cary, Nickel discussed the effects of redistricting.

"Earlier this year, the Republican supermajority in the legislature hacked our congressional maps and boldly gerrymandered our state," said Rep. Nickel.

Political analysts said they believe the new maps will give Republicans an advantage in 10 or 11 of the state's 14 districts, a marked shift from the current 7-7 split.

Nickel defeated Bo Hines in the 2022 race. The upset was seen as a key win for Democrats as they fought to keep control of the U.S. House of Representatives, a fight the Democrats ultimately lost.

The first-term Congressman won in a district that political analysts said they believed skewed slightly toward Republicans in 2022, though new boundaries made the prospect of re-election far more difficult.

"We've got to end partisan gerrymandering. It doesn't matter who's doing it (whether) it's Democrats or Republicans. It's wrong and it's destroying our democracy. I've said it before and I'll say it again, voters should choose their politicians. Politicians should not choose their voters," said Nickel.

Nickel, alongside Congressman Jeff Jackson and Congresswoman Kathy Manning, were effectively drawn out of their districts, as Republicans appear primed to win at least 10 Congressional seats next cycle.

"I would run in a second if I could run in the current North Carolina-13 (boundaries), which is a fair fight and that's what you want when you do this," Nickel said. "You just want to have a chance to have the best ideas win. And that's what gerrymandering robs voters of and why it's just so bad for Washington," said Nickel.

He said he believes federal action is needed to address redistricting protocols.

"We have a bill that would provide a nationwide standard for independent redistricting commissions in every state. That's the best way to do it is you do it in a nationwide way so that you don't have this sort of piecemeal approach where some states just gerrymander the hell out of their states and others have independent redistricting commissions," Nickel said. "The real solution is doing it in a nationwide basis. We have a bill for that. And that's something that can make a huge difference. But again, we can't get any of those bills through the Senate if the threshold is 60 votes there. It's just never going to happen."

Fellow Congresswoman Deborah Ross, who represents the 2nd District, released a statement on Nickel's announcement.

"During the 2022 election, Wiley won one of the most competitive elections in the nation. It is shameful that North Carolina Republicans eliminated this purple seat in their extreme, partisan gerrymander. Their egregious congressional map intentionally fails to reflect the ideological and racial diversity of our great state, silencing the voices of voters across North Carolina." she said.

If he ultimately does run for U.S. Senate, the next election would be against Republican Sen. Thom Tillis.

There are currently two legal challenges to the state's new voting maps, one focused on the state Senate, the other on Congressional districts, alleging they divided minority communities. Republicans have expressed confidence the maps will be held up by the courts, saying they did not utilize racial data in drawing new boundaries.

"Federal courts are really opposed to changing election calendars. It's not to say that it couldn't happen, but the suit would have to be heard and determined very quickly," said Meredith College Political Science Professor Dr. David McLennan regarding the prospect of newly-drawn court-ordered maps.

Whether new maps could be implemented for the upcoming election, and thus a new candidate filing period, depends on a number of factors, including the timeliness of a hearing and the specific ruling of a judge. For reference, in 2021, the State Supreme Court suspended candidate filing for the 2022 primaries on Dec. 8, in which they also pushed back the date of those elections and rescheduled municipal elections by more than two months.

Five members of North Carolina's Congressional delegation will not be seeking re-election.

"Many of these congressional offices, they know their constituents and are able to help them out when the need arises, whether it be getting Social Security benefits or those kind of things, so there's a loss of that as well. The idea that we have voters learning new candidates whether they're because of redistricting or because someone else is running does make it difficult. They don't know as much about the person," explained McLennan.

Nickel said he will work to get fellow Democrats elected in 2024, saying he believed statewide races will help the party avoid depressed turnout.

"Democrats may be putting their efforts into the 1st Congressional District with (Rep.) Don Davis. That's expected to be the tightest race," McLennan said. "And then to win the Council of State races, including the governorship. I mean the reality is that both parties make strategic decisions."