Carolina Democracy

Thick Skin, Short Memory!

June 10, 2024 JD Wooten Season 3 Episode 22
Thick Skin, Short Memory!
Carolina Democracy
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Carolina Democracy
Thick Skin, Short Memory!
Jun 10, 2024 Season 3 Episode 22
JD Wooten

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we're joined by Congressman Wiley Nickel to talk about a bill he recently introduced to combat partisan gerrymandering -- the FAIR MAPS Act. While we focused on partisan gerrymandering and the harms it causes to the country and to democracy, we also spent a little time chatting about memories of past campaigns, his days in the state senate, and some of his experiences in Congress so far.

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Congressman Wiley Nickel:
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Show Notes Transcript

Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! Today, we're joined by Congressman Wiley Nickel to talk about a bill he recently introduced to combat partisan gerrymandering -- the FAIR MAPS Act. While we focused on partisan gerrymandering and the harms it causes to the country and to democracy, we also spent a little time chatting about memories of past campaigns, his days in the state senate, and some of his experiences in Congress so far.

Other Resources:
Congressman Wiley Nickel:
Carolina Forward:
Hometown Holler:
New Branchhead Substack:

Contact Us:

Follow Us:

Support the Show.

Wiley Nickel: This is the one thing that could totally fix a broken political system. The FAIR MAPS Act would provide for independent nonpartisan redistricting commissions in every state. So every state is playing by the same set of rules with fair maps. And no matter what, politicians shouldn't be trusted to draw their own maps. They're always going to do what's in the best interest of themselves and their political parties. And again, it's just wrecking our country. It's wrecking democracy. 

[music transition]

JD Wooten: Welcome back to Carolina Democracy! I’m JD Wooten, and this week we’re joined by Congressman Wiley Nickel to talk about a bill he recently introduced to combat partisan gerrymandering. While we focused on partisan gerrymandering and the harms it causes to the country and to democracy, we also spent a little time chatting about memories of past campaigns, his days in the state senate, and some of his experiences in Congress so far. 

There are two things I want to highlight about the interview ahead of time to make sure you’re listening for them. The first is a debate within the anti-partisan gerrymandering community about what I’ll call proportional versus competitive representation. The second is the impact that gerrymandering tends to have on the candidates who ultimately succeed.

North Carolina is a great example for both of these things under our current Congressional map, although that’s about to change under the new gerrymandered map in place for the 2024 cycle. Under the map used in 2022, there were essentially 7 safe Republican seats, 6 safe Democratic seats, and a toss up seat. The toss up seat went Democratic, so we ended up with a 7-7 split in the Congressional delegation from North Carolina. Since North Carolina’s essentially a 50-50 state, that means our Congressional map and the 2022 election led to proportional representation – both our population and our Congressional delegation were split 50-50.

Some people argue that a good map ensures proportional representation, but that can easily mean zero competitive general election contests. Thus you still have the problem of more extreme candidates having an easier time advancing from a primary and then cruising to an automatic win n the general election. Think people like Virginia Foxx and Dan Bishop who have never really had competitive general elections and are decidedly on the far right, quite out of step with most North Carolina voters.

The other way to do this is to make as many seats competitive as possible. As you’ll hear Congressman Nickel mention, that basically means seats drawn as no more than 45-55 lean for either party. In reality, the ideal is probably even tighter, like seats that are drawn to be 48-52, 49-51, or a true 50-50. The further a seat is from 50-50, the harder it is for the disfavored party to win. By the time you get to 55-45, fewer than 1% of the candidates on that 45% side will win, and by the time you get to 56-44, statistically speaking, it’s game over. The party favored on the 56% side will essentially win every time, period, regardless of candidate strength, fundraising, controversies or scandals, you name it.

So, back to the point about competitive seats. If in 2022, North Carolina had 14 seats which were drawn 50-50, if that had been possible, instead of 13 being foregone conclusion seats, we might have had a much different Congressional delegation. Assuming each district mirrored the statewide voting patterns for the only state-wide races on the ballot – the judicial races – we would have ended up with a 14-0 delegation of only Republicans. That’s because at the state-wide level, Republicans had a clean sweep of the judicial races by roughly 52-48, even though theoretically North Carolina is a 50-50 state. Thus if all 14 congressional districts went 52-48, then 100% of the representation would go to the prevailing 52% of vote getters – all Republicans. This is a pretty big oversimplification of the idea, but I think you can quickly see a potential draw back of this strategy for map drawing as well.

So, having only competitive seats, or having only foregone conclusion seats (even if divided proportionally), can both have some obvious draw backs. In competitive seats, small variations in the political climate can lead to wild swings in the makeup of the representatives. However, theoretically, those representatives would likely be more moderate politicians keen on not alienating people for fear that deviating too far from the middle could lose them the next election. Listen out for who Congressman Nickel notes he has had the most success working with on the other side of the isle – Republicans from competitive districts.

In contrast, while proportional representation would all but guarantee each party a proportional number of seats, and create some stability in the overall power balance between the parties, the candidates who prevail would likely be more extreme and far less responsive to the population as a whole. Instead, they would be almost exclusively concerned about their primary voters.

Sound familiar? Well, that’s because under partisan gerrymandering, we get the worst of both worlds. We get maps drawn to all but guarantee the most seats possible for one party or the other, and then all races everywhere are only competitive in the primaries. The general elections are a foregone conclusion. In North Carolina we pack Democrats into the densest Democratic districts possible, resulting in Democratic candidates prevailing on election day with upwards of 70% of the vote in their districts. In Republican districts, we crack the remaining Democratic voters to ensure that on election day, those Republicans win by about 55-45. Again, those Republican candidates are only beholden to their primary voters, and the general election is a foregone conclusion. Thus we do not get proportional representation, but we still get extreme candidates. But at the end of the day, the thinking for the party in power under such a system is that staying in power is better than the alternative.

So, with that background, let’s turn to two other things, one admin, one substantive. On the admin side, I’ve decided to experiment with a modified format for the next few weeks to allow me to focus on some other exciting projects in the works. We’ll still be focusing on interviews with pro-democracy candidates, group, organizers, and the like, but without the A block or monologue. In the current news ecosystem, a lot of stories are stale by the time I get to them in a weekly podcast anyways, and there are a lot of other good groups covering these things now too who simply weren’t when we started this venture several years ago. 

Two of the best sources I’ve found for weekly recaps or timely updates, especially on social media, are Carolina Forward and the Hometown Holler. Carolina Forward does a weekly email blast you should sign up for and their executive director frequently does a weekly recap on their social media feeds as well. Lately he’s been featuring his newborn in a sling as he records those videos too. And the guys at the Holler are keeping it fresh and entertaining. They’re not focusing on the candidate interviews in quite the same way we are, although they’ve some phenomenal candidates on as guests sometimes, so we’ll continue to hopefully not overlap in content there. And they have the capacity to do some great stuff on social media, often within minutes or hours of it happening. Give them a follow and show them some love. And yes, they’ll be featured in an upcoming interview here on Carolina Democracy as well that you won’t want to miss. It was quite a blast recording that one.

Rather than compete with either of those, I want to focus my time and efforts on other areas where we need a lot of work to promote and support pro-democracy candidates, especially for our judicial races. The Courts are our last line of defense for democracy, and they often get overlooked during campaign season and  given short shrift. Not everything I’ll be doing will be public, but rest assured I’ll still be hard at work on this mission of promoting pro-democracy candidates up and down the ballot, and stepping back a little from the monologue will give me a little extra time to do just that. And I will make exceptions to that as major, democracy-impacting news happens if it's just so impactful I can resist.

Like this week. Yes, I’m breaking my new rule on Day 1. Sue me. This week GOP senators slipped in languages into their already controversial masking bill to allow unlimited, anonymous out-of-state money to flow into state-level campaigns. The flood gates for donor cash have been opened since the Citizens United ruling, but at least then the anonymous floods of cash went to independent expenditure groups that had strict rules and couldn’t coordinate directly with campaigns. Assuming this bill passes, and it likely will, that unlimited, anonymous money will now be able to go straight to the GOP fire-brand candidates who are struggling in their fundraising because they are so unpopular and toxic, namely Mark Robinson and Dan Bishop. 

Yes, the GOP is changing the rules for campaign finance mid-election to boost their struggling candidates. Huge surprise, I’m sure. The number of people willing to give to these extremists is pretty limited, and they’ve about maxed out, so the laws need to change to allow the handful of extremist-aligned donors to give more money. Plus, others are likely willing to give large sums so long as their names don’t get identified directly with those candidates. It’s toxic to democracy and we all need to be aware of it and make sure to talk about it as much as possible any chance you get. As a former guest noted, this is the time to raise righteous hell, because there’s not much else we can do at the moment. But we can get fired up about it and try to get others fired up too, and turn out to vote Democrat!

Ok, I won’t go on about that one any more as I could spend multiple episodes on the toxic impact of money in politics. But first, I think we need to end partisan gerrymandering, so without further ado, here’s our interview this Congressman Wiley Nickel to discuss just that. Hope you enjoy!

[music transition]

JD Wooten: With us today is Congressman Wiley Nickel, representing North Carolina's 13th Congressional District. For those who may not remember, Congressman Nickel was one of our earliest guests on the show, agreeing to an interview just weeks after we launched. Welcome back to the show, Congressman.

Wiley Nickel: It's so great to see you. Thanks for having me and for spending so much time focusing on democracy in North Carolina. This is the issue we got to, we've got to get right before we get anything else done. 

JD Wooten: Well, I certainly agree. And I appreciate that. So when you were last on, I asked about your earliest memory of politics as I do with most of my guests, you mentioned the Clinton Gore race, and that was your first campaign. New icebreaker this time. What's your earliest memory of voting? 

Wiley Nickel: Gosh, voting. I can't even remember. I mean, I, I vote every time, every election. It had to have been, let's see it had to have been the the midterm before 96. But I definitely remember voting in 96 cause I worked on the campaign. So that was the Clinton Gore 96 campaign. And , and, and, and that, that campaign was super fresh because yesterday we had Al Gore come and visit us in Congress. I organized a group of pro environment Democrats in the House. And, and he came and we, we got to painfully for him revisit the 2000 election. I got to introduce him at this thing and I said, for me, it was, I was thinking , the speeches that change you and that change the direction of your life. And for me, it was, it was his speech in '96 at the convention talking about his, his sister who died of lung cancer. My father died of lung cancer. So I said, , I, I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that this guy wins the national popular vote in the 2000 election. And mission accomplished 

JD Wooten: Mission accomplished!

Wiley Nickel: But 

JD Wooten: unfortunately we have that pesky electoral college. 

Wiley Nickel: He, he, he thanked me very much for my work and, and reminded me that that was a little more so fun meeting and a nice dive back into that race. 

JD Wooten: I imagine that's one of those bitter sweet times in life with both positive and negative memories for him. For those listeners who aren't familiar, Congressman Nickel was first elected to the State Senate in 2018 in the then newly drawn District 16, which was the product of one of our multitude of cases of redistricting. He won a very competitive primary and then went on to win the general election, making him part of the group of Democrats who gave us enough seats in the General Assembly to break the GOP supermajority and sustain the governor's veto. He then served a couple of terms in the State Senate before running for another newly drawn seat. This time, the North Carolina 13th Congressional District. Once again, this was a seat created through redistricting litigation, and this time he won a competitive primary and a competitive general election and a tooth and nail fight all the way up to the end. We'll get to the gerrymandering aspect of all of that in just a moment. But I'm curious what lessons you gleaned from your days in the State Senate that you're still taking with you to Congress today? 

Wiley Nickel: For me, it's about doing the work of the people who sent you, to elected office. And in 2018 I was one of the six seats that we flipped to break the super majority again in 2022. One of six, six just Republican seats that we flipped to in this, this election for Congress. I think the best training for, for being in Congress is serving in the, in the state legislature. The members who do that are able to hit the ground running. And it helps you learn how to, to work with your democratic colleagues and your Republican colleagues. So, it was a tough legislature with with Phil Berger in charge, but we, we did work to find other members willing to work across the aisle and when I get here to Congress, I've got a lot more Republicans willing to work in a bipartisan way because we have divided government. So they know if they want to get anything done that they need to work together. And, and, and the thing that just kills me is you see all the news, all the crazy, you know, ,the far right, the far left stuff. None of that is solving a problem. It's the, the quiet work we do that, that nobody really covers that really makes a difference. And with the media, no one's going to cover a plane that lands on time. They come to the plane when it crashes. And that's what we see so much, which is, which is frustrating to me. 

JD Wooten: If it bleeds, it leads. 

Wiley Nickel: Yeah. 

JD Wooten: Some things haven't changed for better or worse in these days, but I know that your time's very valuable and we want to spend some time talking about gerrymandering and new legislation that you recently introduced, but I do want to ask one more question on your time in the legislature, both the state Senate and Congress. Let me ask you this way. If someone were to write a book on Wiley Nickel, what's the one thing that you want to make sure that they don't forget to include about your time in either the State Senate or Congress or both? 

Wiley Nickel: I'm just such an X's and O's guy. I point to the big things we did and, the biggest, most important thing I could do for North Carolina working families is support Governor Cooper. And in the four years I was in the State Senate, not a single veto was overridden. That was a huge fight. And the stuff we had to do behind the scenes to keep Democrats together, to make sure we continue to stick together as a group had huge dividends for our state. We were able to move our politics towards the center and we got much better public policy results because of it. Now you're seeing a Republican supermajority and what they're able to do right now play out: abortion bans, defunding public education, attacking our teachers , absolutely taking our state in the wrong direction. So, I think that was the big one for, for that time.

JD Wooten: So I promised we'd get back to gerrymandering, although gerrymandering litigation and the redistricting that followed created opportunities to run in the past for you. Unfortunately, gerrymandering has swung the other way around this time. As I understand it, the 13th congressional district you currently represent won't even really exist after this election. Is that right?

Wiley Nickel: That's right. And it's a shame if you care about having a real choice in November. I won a Republican leaning seat. It was a seat that was was slightly Republican, but it could have gone either way. Those are the seats that you want. Seats that, that any candidate can win competitive races. We won by three points. It was a big win in a tough district. And it was a fair fight. Voters had a real choice with two candidates with very different views on the world. And pro democracy Republicans got up and voted for me. And that's why I'm in Congress. But unfortunately Republicans were able to take over the North Carolina Supreme Court and they, they got rid of what was a, was a fair map, we're a 50 50 state. This is a map that elected seven Democrats, seven Republicans. My seat could have gone either way. And now we've got a map that, that very well may elect 11 Republicans and just three Democrats, maybe 10 to four if Don Davis is able to hold on in a really tough district that they drew for him. But he's got a fair fight there. But we went from a map with, with a number of competitive races to, to one that just takes the choice out of voting.

And that's the real problem I see here in Congress is that we're not able to get anything done. We're one of the, going to be one of the least productive congresses in our nation's history because of partisan gerrymandering. Less than 10% of the seats in Congress have any real chance of flipping in November. 90% of the seats in Congress are virtually guaranteed to go to whoever wins the Democratic primary, whoever wins the Republican primary in their mainly gerrymandered districts. And the people I work with, the people on the other side of the aisle willing to work with me are often folks in these competitive districts.

So if you're going to point your finger to one thing that's just totally screwing up democracy in the United States and the U. S. House of Representatives, it's partisan gerrymandering. It's just wrecking our country and we're going to have fewer and fewer competitive seats. We've lost mine, and, and the country's going to suffer for it because the person coming from the district with my number on it is going to be someone who's, who's not going to have to answer to the voters in November. He answers to one person, Donald Trump, the guy who endorsed him and got him through his primary. That's the only guy he cares about, pleasing. And you care about good public policy, things that the majority of our country supports, you're, you're going to lose that in the next Congress. 

JD Wooten: And in response, you introduced the Fair and Impartial Redistricting for Meaningful and Accountable Political Systems, or FAIR MAPS Act. The FAIR MAPS Act would combat partisan gerrymandering, like you were just talking about, by establishing independent, non partisan redistricting commissions in every state. Can you tell us a little more about the genesis of that bill? Who'd you work with? How'd it come to be? 

Wiley Nickel: Yeah, this is, this is a big deal. This is the one thing that could totally fix a broken political system. The FAIR MAPS Act would provide for independent nonpartisan redistricting commissions in every state. So every state is playing by the same set of rules with fair maps. And no matter what, politicians shouldn't be trusted to draw their own maps. They're always going to do what's in the best interest of themselves and their political parties. And again, it's just wrecking our country. It's wrecking democracy. So my bill would fix it. I believe that when Hakeem Jeffries, the Speaker of the House in January, we're going to see this bill move through Congress. And , it's, it's, it's a, an effort that , I supported in the, in the state legislature and the State Senate. It's not about protecting one political party. It's about making sure we do everything we can to make sure that folks have a choice when they go to vote. And so just, , it's, it's a lot of, it's a complicated issue, but I think that the one thing that I hope people will take away is, look, okay, if we, you 40 seats that, that, are, with the, what the statute says is called responsive, districts that could go either way. And we had these Duke researchers look at the entire country and say, okay if we had independent redistricting commissions in every state in the country, there are some states where Democrats gerrymander the hell out of the states. A lot more states where Republicans gerrymander the hell out of their states. But, if we, if we, we had fair maps in every state, we would double the number of competitive seats in the U. S. House. So out of we got 40, less than 40 out of 435. Now we'd have more than 80. That would be a huge change in, in Congress and would allow us to get so much more done. 

JD Wooten: Wholeheartedly agree on all those points and I really love the point you made on it being essentially a nonpartisan issue. This isn't about increasing the odds for either party. And sometimes I talk to conservative voters or diehard Republicans and they want to say something in retort like, well, Democrats did this for years. And my response has become, well, yes, they absolutely did. And history shows both parties do. Also history shows power goes back and forth. So if you support this now, then when Democrats are back in charge, they can't do it next time. 

Wiley Nickel: I just, I just have this issue with that line of questioning too. I, I am just like, I really have a tough time going backwards in time in politics. We are, we are forward looking. The best advice I got was, thick skin, short memory. All I'm trying to do is solve problems tomorrow. Everybody can talk about what happened yesterday. But the question is, how can we fix a broken political system? And we have a system now where candidates are just focused on winning their, their Democratic primary or the Republican primary. And that's not where most of the country is. And you want to have a chance to run on who's got the best ideas. Let's have a debate about ending gun violence in America. The majority of the country supports the things that, that I want to do to end gun violence.

But because of partisan politics, because of Republican primaries, only a small group of folks turn out in these Republican primaries, the gun lobby has a stranglehold on, on those Republican candidates. And then we see folks who get to these districts that are totally non responsive in November, they don't care what folks think in November, the general election audience. They just are focused on winning that primary 'cause. That's what's gonna keep them coming back to Congress and we get nothing done unending gun violence. So that's, I think one of the, the better examples. 

We certainly talk about protecting women's right to choose. Vast majority of the country agrees that women should have the the right to choose. We women should have reproductive health rights the same rights they've had for 50 years. Vast majority agree with that. But because of gerrymandering, we don't see that in Congress.

JD Wooten: Couldn't have said any of that better myself. I love all of it. And I really appreciate that advice. Thick skin, short memories. Let's focus on fixing things in the future. So to that end, one of the debates in the anti gerrymandering community is over the goal and what redistricting should be. So let's use the North Carolina congressional delegation as an example, you mentioned earlier, based on the 2022 map, we've got 14 congressional seats and it led to a seven, seven split Democrats, Republicans. In a state that's roughly 50 - 50 in terms of voters preferring Democrats or Republicans, that means we've got essentially a proportional representation. However, only one of those seats, in reality, this is me saying from my perspective, only one of those seats was in reality competitive yours. So what that really meant was that we knew going in the election, it was either going to be 6 - 8 or 7 - 7. Now, another way to draw maps would be have 14 competitive seats, but even the slightest variations in political climate, you could go from a 14 - 0 delegation one time to 0 - 14 the other way, a complete swing. Does the Fair Maps Act address this or how to take these considerations in?

Wiley Nickel: Unfortunately, we can't, we can't, in Congress, we can't tell states how to draw their state legislative maps. We can't tell 'em how to draw congressional maps. So it provides criteria for states to follow in setting up these independent commissions to do fair maps. You're talking about a number of things, keeping communities of interest together, drawing maps in very specific ways, where you get Democrats, Republicans, Independents, all agreeing on maps. That's kind of one of the hallmarks of a good commission. And there are a number of states that do it , Colorado is a good example, Arizona. Iowa has a different process that, that is, is fairly responsive. But, but if we're just playing fantasyland and I'm in charge, whatever I want becomes law, I like gerrymandering for competition. You can gerrymander to make 50 - 50 seats and just say, go at it. Whoever's got the best ideas is going to win. And it's like a put up or shut up kind of thing. If Republicans really believed in the, in the issues that they support, they should join us. They all right, we want those 50 - 50 districts. We know we got the best ideas, but, but the truth is they don't. And that's why they don't like it. Because if my far right, folks like Marjorie, folks like, if Marjorie Taylor Greene had to, had to face a 50 - 50 district, she would lose every single time. But she only stays in Congress because she's in one of the most far right Districts where no matter who they elect in the Republican primary, that person is guaranteed to win. And we can get into the, the, the numbers here, but if, if, if you're really kind of going on this deep dive with us, what you're looking for is D+10 to R+10. So 45 percent to 55 percent districts. Those are the places that statistically you can have a swing. If you have a district that's more than 55 percent Republican or 55 percent Democrat your chances are like less than 1 percent of the district ever flipping in any situation. So like zero chance if you're out of that range. But when you're in that middle competitive range, the districts couldn't go either way. So we want to more districts in that middle range, as close to 50 - 50 as you can, that's what is going to make sure the people that we send to Raleigh or to Washington are going to do what the majority of their constituents want. 

JD Wooten: Well, I don't know that anyone's going to let me near any commissions anytime soon, given my outspokenness in the past on these things, but if I was on the commission, that's what I'd be fighting for.

Wiley Nickel: And, and the way these commissions work, you get, you do five Democrats, five Republicans, five independents, and you make them all agree. So you got to have pretty much, , not quite unanimous, but, but a vast majority agreeing on maps where they have criteria and they follow the rules. And, you, you have the places that do that, get good maps that, that swing, you want to have seats that swing.

JD Wooten: So you mentioned criteria and a few of the ones that you want to look at, communities of interest, compactness I think you mentioned a few others, but I'm curious, are there any prohibited criteria, things you definitely shouldn't be using under the Fair Maps Act? 

Wiley Nickel: The best maps, you want to have you want to keep cities together, you want to keep counties together, you want to keep communities of interest together. You want to have maps that are compact. Those are, those are things that you, , you look for in, in fair maps. But what you don't want to do is is gerrymander for, for your party in a negative way. You want to be as close to 50 - 50 as you can. And what we see with these maps that the Republicans drew are, are maps that, that are absolute partisan gerrymanders designed only to elect Republicans. They get to this over 55% range where even if it's a tsunami for Democrats you can't win these seats. One of the things I think if you're just, if you could put up a slide to really illustrate what's going on with these, you look at this, there's, we got a state Senate district in Wilmington where Republicans have gone with surgical precision and grabbed this small, very African American part of Wilmington and taken it out of this district to make it less competitive and you, you see it and folks get this issue because it just, these, these maps don't pass the eye test.

You look at the map, you see where communities of color are, and you can see how they've been divided up. So keeping communities of color together certainly is another important goal for, for drawing fair maps and, and a place where with the four lawsuits that are going on right now with the congressional maps in North Carolina, the racial gerrymandering that we've seen, completely blatant and obvious is a place where the federal courts have been, been very good. The Fourth Circuit is good on this issue. While we've lost three, maybe four seats in North Carolina, I think in 2026, there's a good chance we could get some of our districts back with, with the lawsuits that we've got going on. 

JD Wooten: Well, I definitely appreciate that you went to the Wilmington notch as your example. Our listeners are definitely familiar with the Wilmington notch. I think it was a few, few episodes ago. I said, if you ever want to know if the North Carolina General Assembly has gerrymandered their maps, just go look for the Wilmington notch. If it's there, you got a gerrymander. So this act also addresses and this I think is really important transparency and public input. Can you tell us a little about that part of the bill?

Wiley Nickel: Yeah, that's the part you got to get right. You got to have hearings. You got to have public comment. And and we didn't even have that with the the North Carolina legislative maps. It's it's this sort of sham hearing where they did a few hearings. They didn't really tell anyone about it. They don't answer questions. They just would send a few, a few Republican members to just sit there and listen to people talk. And they, they obviously did nothing. They didn't respond. And you, you, you have to do it when there is a map to comment on. That was the other problem. Public comments before you draw maps, totally useless if you're trying to have any pretext of drawing a fair map, or one that is responsive to the courts. So, that's part of it too. When you decide on your map, that's when you want to have the public comments if you if you're actually trying to listen to people. But but the problem that I saw in two terms in the state legislature in our Senate, is that Republicans, if they're in charge, they're just going to go meet privately in a room. They're going to make their decisions and then they're going to force a vote on it.

 Very seldom in North Carolina politics and our state legislature where the Republican majority would actually work in a meaningful bipartisan way on issues. Often, most of the time, they just meet privately. And in my time in the Senate, Phil Berger was, was pretty much a hundred percent in the votes that he put on the floor. They didn't have the votes. If we were able to, to, to convince Republicans that it's a bad idea, they just wouldn't call the vote so they wouldn't be embarrassed. So that's what we see far too often, and certainly a thousand percent what we saw with, with these maps. They drew the maps up months and months before the public ever saw them, they decided on them privately, and then they threw it at the legislature for a vote with absolutely no real input or debate.

JD Wooten: And they did it at the last minute to ensure that any court challenges that might have even had a potential to be successful ended up not being in time to actually do anything. 

Wiley Nickel: No, I mean, just absolutely gamed the system, cause they know how to do it. They're very good at it. They've been doing it for quite a while. And if you care about a woman's right to choose, you care about getting gun violence, you care about having Democrats and Republicans work together, you should be really pissed off. 

JD Wooten: So what's the status of this bill and what are the prospects for it becoming law? Either this Congress or maybe once Democrats take control, is there enough support to move it through the House once Democrats are in the majority?

Wiley Nickel: We're going to use every possible mechanism I have to get this bill consideration. We had a bill putting a citizenship question on the census. It was a horrible bill. Absolutely the wrong way to go. But I tried to, to gut that bill and replace it with mine. So we're going to use it with the Fair Maps Act. We're going to try to use every mechanism we have. But, but I think if you're kind of sitting back and you're looking at this election, you're looking at what's going to happen.. Senate could go either way. The House could go either way. The White House could go either way. But I think your best bets, if you're talking about White House, Senate, and House, is that Hakeem Jeffries will be the next Speaker of the House.

Republicans are just totally incapable of governing. We've got , some really great candidates running. And I think we're going to see Hakeem Jeffries as our Speaker of the House. And I, the only reason I say that is because this is a bill that will get a vote and, and will pass with Hakeem Jeffries as Speaker. He gave me this bill, he said, Wiley I want you to do this, this was a piece of a larger H. R. 1 bill that passed , in the last Congress. So the support is there. And if we can get it through the Senate, this is a bill that the president will sign. So I think we're real close on it and the work we're doing right now to talk about it will make a huge difference in getting it done hopefully by this time next year. 

JD Wooten: Well, Congressman, I know you've got a lot of other things on your plate to get to today alone. So how about this important question to wrap up, where can people go to learn more about you and your work? 

Wiley Nickel: So our website nickel. house. gov is my official website. There's links to the Fair Maps Act and all the work I'm doing in Washington. Social media at Rep Wiley Nickel is the, is the, is, is the, the account for, for all of our, our different, Twitter Facebook, Instagram. We put out stuff all the time. We've got a great newsletter as well. Kind of sums up what I do every week. So lots of ways to catch up with the work I'm doing in Washington. And I would encourage people to do it and, and let us know, let me know what you think. My job is to work for, for North Carolinians in Congress and continue to do everything I can to be responsive to, to the folks that I serve.

JD Wooten: Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Congressman. It's been a real pleasure. 

Wiley Nickel: Hey, it was, it was great to see you and look forward to talking more in the future.

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JD Wooten: Thanks again to everyone for listening today. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes, send me an email at And as always, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and share this episode with a friend. Together, we can achieve a better North Carolina for everyone!