RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. Jeff Jackson of North Carolina announced a 2024 bid for state attorney general on Thursday, one day after the Republican-controlled legislature approved a new congressional map for the state that would now situate him in a heavily GOP district.
Jackson, a former local prosecutor, ex-state senator, Afghan war veteran and National Guard soldier, had in 2022 won an open U.S. House seat in a district in and around Charlotte that favored a Democrat. It was clear since he took office in January that Republicans could attempt to create new lines to push him out after only one term.
“A group of politicians in North Carolina just redrew my congressional district to take me out. They’re going to replace me with one of their political allies,” Jackson said in a video announcing his decision. “That’s political corruption. And I’ve got news for them. I’m running for attorney general and I’m going to use that job to go after political corruption.”
Jackson’s entry into the statewide race could result in a general election campaign against a fellow member of Congress and Charlotte-area resident in GOP Rep. Dan Bishop, who announced his bid for attorney general in the summer. Both would be heavily favored in the March primaries if they faced competition.
Current state Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, is running for governor next year.
The state’s U.S. House lines had been drawn last year by a panel of trial judges after earlier attempts by the General Assembly to draw the state’s 14 congressional districts were found by state courts to include unlawful partisan gerrymandering.
But having such a temporary map meant another set of boundaries needed to be enacted for the 2024 elections. Then last spring the state Supreme Court — with a majority of Republican justices — declared that the state constitution lacked explicit limits on drawing district lines for partisan gain.
That opened the door for Republicans to draw a new map that would make it difficult for at least three Democratic incumbents — Jackson and Reps. Kathy Manning and Wiley Nickel — to win reelection and help Republicans win seats instead.
Jackson said the refigured 8th Congressional District where he now resides is “completely unwinnable under any circumstances.”
State Democrats said Thursday that litigation challenging the congressional and state legislative maps finalized this week would come soon. But Jackson told supporters last week when Republicans unveiled the boundaries that the timing and result of any court case were unclear.
Republicans have called the latest maps that they drew fair and legal.
In a fundraising email on Thursday, Jackson said he expected the attorney general’s race in November 2024 to be very close. Both he and Bishop are prolific fundraisers, with Bishop’s campaign reporting in August over $900,000 in donations in the first 10 days after he announced his official bid.
Jackson and Bishop have both said they would serve out the remainders of their U.S. House terms. During his nearly 10 months in Congress, Jackson has been known for his regular videos on social media explaining the latest news in Congress.
Jackson ran previously for U.S. Senate, but withdrew in late 2021 and endorsed eventual nominee Cheri Beasley. Beasley lost the election to Republican Ted Budd.
The U.S. House “has merely been a stepping stone to higher office” for Jackson and “it’s about time he stepped aside to make room for a representative who truly cares about serving North Carolina in Congress,” said Delanie Bomar, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
If elected as attorney general, Jackson said he would take on criminals who target consumers’ bank accounts, fentanyl distributors who target children and corporations responsible for price gouging and water pollution.
“The job is about standing between you and them, which means I’m going to take some hits,” Jackson said in the video, excerpts of which show him sparring in a boxing ring. “But it also means fighting back.”
Manning and Nickel have blasted the congressional lines as extreme partisan gerrymandering but haven’t said yet whether they will seek reelection in 2024.
Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., announced on Wednesday that he would no longer run for governor but seek a Greensboro-area congressional seat in the district that Manning currently represents. Walker served six years in the House, but decided against running in 2020 when he was essentially drawn into a Democratic-leaning district.