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Redistricting draws Haywood County into NC Senate 47 primary race with major implications

Eastern Haywood County is now part of NC Senate District 47 along with counties along the Virginia border.
Eastern Haywood County is now part of NC Senate District 47 along with counties along the Virginia border.

North Carolina Senate District 47 is one of many that is unrecognizable after redistricting. Now the decisions about funds to rebuild one town in Haywood County will be made by a legislator from East of the situation.

The Town of Canton bore the brunt of last summer’s flooding in Western North Carolina, and remains without permanent facilities for police, fire and town administrators.

Mitchell County Sen. Ralph Hise remembers first hearing about last summer’s flooding which killed six people in eastern Haywood County.  

“It was something very much reported to the General Assembly,” said Hise. “I had some partial flooding that was reported to me in Yancey County and several of my county leaders there began to call.” 

Watauga County Sen. Deanna Ballard remembers finding out about it too.  

“Oh, man. I mean, I had called Corbin to check in,” Ballard said. “That's kind of what we do too. We all check in with each other. What do we need to do, the priority level, we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to respond.” 

The man Ballard spoke about, Western North Carolina Sen. Kevin Corbin, represented Haywood County precincts in Bethel, Canton, Cruso and Clyde when the Pigeon River gutted them last August, but because of redistricting and a procedure called the Stephenson clustering rule, he won’t come January.  

The new 47th Senate District runs southwest from Allegany County on the Virginia border down through Boone and Marshall before terminating in central Haywood County. The line runs right through the parking lot of Haywood Regional Medical Center’s fitness center, meaning you could park your car in Kevin Corbin’s 50th District, and then go work out in the 47th. 

The district is 61% Republican. No Democrats filed to run for the seat.   

Incumbent senators Ballard and Hise, both Republicans, both experienced, both chairs of different appropriations committees, were drawn together. In the same district. By their own party.  

For them, the Primary is the General.  

“I first wanna say that Sen. Ballard is a close colleague of mine and a good friend of mine and I think both of us are, um, not happy with the way this process wound up and that we find ourselves in this kind of primary,” Hise said.  

Hise has grown in influence since defeating Waynesville Democrat Joe Sam Queen back in 2010, when part of Haywood County was previously in Hise’s district. He’s now deputy president pro temp of the Senate, and one of the base budget appropriations chairs. 

“This is a conversation of levels more than it is where we stand on issues and those kind of things,” said Hise. “I've really moved into a lot of leadership positions that she has not yet moved to in her six years of service in the Senate. That may very well be in her future, but it's about where I am now and the ability for the first time in this budget to really give a voice to Western North Carolina.” 

Ballard has achieved her own successes in her three terms. She’s a co-chair of the education appropriations committee, and also chairs the education committee.  

“Ralph's a dear friend,” said Ballard. “I think we are both value-add to the Senate and to the district. I would say that I am very active, I have of a lot of visibility in my communities and show up, I'm responsive, and really the hallmark, I would say, of my tenure thus far has been constituent services.” 

With two more or less evenly matched candidates who are on the same ideological page, the contest between Ballard and Hise could come down to a few thousand votes in eastern Haywood County and the issue of flood relief. Ballard’s looking to see funding from outside of government.

“So public/private-type dollars, matching, kind of going through the options, and then we’ll also of course go through and consider whatever availability of funds there might be at the state level.” 

Hise, citing a recent flood in Madison County, thinks a direct appropriation is a more direct solution.   

“There is a budget process, but I think we we’re in good position within the state, within the budget process to assist in addressing some of those needs and just need to get those at the forefront of the table.” 

Early voting for the May 17 Primary Election begins April 28.  

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