The NC House First District covers 14 counties in northeastern North Carolina. It features five counties that border Virginia and stretches as far south as Wayne County.
There is a mix of urban and rural areas in the district. It includes cities such as Durham and Greenville — home to Duke and East Carolina universities, respectively — as well as smaller coastal towns New Bern and Elizabeth City.
The NC House First district was featured heavily in the fight over racially-motivated gerrymandering in the latter half of the 2010s. It is a majority-minority district with 44.93% of its population being Black. White people make up 43.19%.
That part of the state has a long history of supporting Democrats. Dating back to the late 1880s, 11 of the last 12 representatives the district sent to Congress have been Democrats. The lone exception is Harry Skinner, a populist who served two terms from 1895-99.
Let’s take a look at who’s running to represent the First District in the NC House.
NC House First District Incumbent: G.K. Butterfield (D)
Years in Congress: 16 (started in July 2004 after Frank Ballance’s resignation)
Committees: House Committee on Energy and Commerce; House Committee on House Administration
Previous political experience: NC Resident Superior Court Judge, NC Supreme Court, NCSpecial Superior Court Judge
Platform: Congressman Butterfield has five priorities listed on his official House of Representatives website: growing the economy and job creation, expanding opportunities through education and job training, ending poverty and hunger, protecting voting rights, and supporting the military.
Butterfield was part of a Congressional subcommittee that wanted to restore Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. The Voting Rights Advancement Act, which was introduced in 2019, passed the House in December 2019. Butterfield was one of 229 cosponsors of the bill.
Challenger: Sandy Smith (R)
Background: Smith has a background in agriculture. She and her husband, William, own a farm that specializes in honey bees and “a rare species of free-range pig from New Zealand,” according to Smith’s campaign website.
Key endorsements: Mark Meadows, White House chief of staff; Congressman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.); National Association for Gun Rights
Platform: According to her website, Smith is anti-abortion and against the “anti-Police rhetoric of the radical liberals.” She is a supporter of the Second Amendment as well as education and job training. In addition, her website states that she wants to help the United States become energy independent. Likewise, Smith says she wants to work with President Donald Trump to complete the border wall.
When looking at her campaign’s website, the first thing Smith says to potential voters is this: “My pledge to the people of North Carolina is this: I will go to work for you every single day – putting you first, representing our values and standing up for the men and women who put on a uniform to defend our nation.”
At this time, it seems unlikely that Smith can unseat Butterfield to represent the NC House First District. However, as unpredictable as 2020 has been, it is not a foregone conclusion. Stay tuned to our homepage for more election news and updates.