The death of North Carolina Rep. Walter B. Jones over the weekend opens up a safe Republican seat on the state’s east coast. The governor must call a special election for the 3rd District. But there is no statutory time frame, so the timing will be up to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Further west, in the 9th District, voters are still waiting to hear whether there will be a special election for the vacant seat — the results of the 2018 election between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready have not been certified. The North Carolina State Board of Elections is holding an evidentiary hearing on allegations of election fraud on Feb. 18.
North Carolina may have a new congressional map in place by the 2020 elections, but likely not before a special election in either district. A three-judge panel in August struck down the state’s congressional lines as a partisan gerrymander, but that decision has been appealed to the Supreme Court, which isn’t likely to rule until June.
Jones ran uncontested in last year’s general election in the 3rd District, after already saying his 13th term would be his last. There’s little chance of Democrats making this seat competitive — President Donald Trump carried it by 24 points in 2016.