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WITNESSES DEFEND DISTRICTING MORE REASONS THAN RACE, THEY SAY
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WITNESSES DEFEND DISTRICTING MORE REASONS THAN RACE, THEY SAY

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A bevy of political factors - not just race - played a key role in how legislative leaders ordered North Carolina's congressional districts to be drawn in 1992.

That was the testimony Wednesday of one of the state's main witnesses in a lawsuit challenging those political boundaries.A group of white voters contend that the 1st and 12th congressional districts were drawn solely on the basis of race.

In addition to race and political considerations, namely making it easier for congressional incumbents to win re-election, Gerry Cohen testified in federal court that the General Assembly also wanted to create one urban and one rural black majority district.

``One of the factors used in my drawing of the plan was to have each incumbent member of Congress to live in one district - no pairing - and to have two majority (black) districts,' said Cohen, director of bill drafting for the legislature and the key staffer charged with shepherding redistricting.

For example, U.S. Rep. Steve Neal, a Winston-Salem Democrat, successfully lobbied to retain a large chunk of that city because without it, he would be vulnerable to Republican foes.

And U.S. Rep. Tim Valentine in the 2nd district wanted to keep as much of Durham County as possible because he chairs a House subcommittee that doles out science grants, which could benefit the Research Triangle Park between Durham and Raleigh.

``This alleged dichotomy between the 1st and 12th Districts is a pretext, contrived after the fact' to defend the way they were drawn along racial lines, Tom Farr told the court. He is an attorney representing a group of Republicans who also challenge the way the districts were drawn.

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