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Offstage, a Price-Miller battle brewing in the 4th

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When redistricting plans shifted his Raleigh residence into the 4th Congressional District, Rep. Brad Miller, who represents the state's 13th Congressional District, said he did not envision himself getting into a primary fight with his Democratic colleague, David Price of Chapel Hill.

But after taking a hard look at the composition of the new 4th, Miller says he is now strongly considering running to represent the district if the current maps hold. The maps must be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.

"David now represents 33 percent [of the new 4th]. I represent 31," Miller said. Since much of the remaining portion includes Miller's hometown of Fayetteville, the five-term congressman said neither he nor Price has a right to claim the district outright.

"This district is more of a jump ball," he said.

Miller said since the two men share a number of supporters and have a long history of working together, he wants to see a "pause" before both sides crank up campaigns, especially since the lines are still tentative.

Price, meanwhile has shown no inclination to pause. He said early on that despite his objections to the Republican-driven redistricting plans, he will seek re-election to the newly redrawn 4th, which stretches from Burlington to Fayetteville. He underscored this in an Aug. 1 email to supporters, which closed with this statement:

"Although there are many unknowns, I want to provide certainty about one thing: my continued commitment to serving the people of the Fourth District. Whatever shape the Fourth District may take, I will stand for re-election, and I will run the kind of grass roots, issues-oriented campaign that you expect from me."

And in an interview earlier this week, Price reiterated his intention to run. "I've been about as straightforward about this as I can be," he said.

Price said he has represented all of Wake County in the past (most recently, the Wake portion of his district is in the northwestern, southwestern and western parts of the county). "I have a lot of ties with the City of Raleigh. Those didn't end when the district lines shifted."

And Price says he is ready to take the campaign to new voters in Alamance and Cumberland counties if the lines hold.

"I've taken on new territory before. I know how to do it and I'm ready to do it whatever the 4th district looks like," he said.

Price said he would prefer not to see a primary contest with Miller but is open to discussing it.

"I'm willing to talk with anybody and everybody about the situation."

Miller said he and Price have had a private conversation about the matter, but it ended "without resolution."

Miller said he would like to continue to serve in Congress; he wants to continue to push for financial reforms and consumer protections.

"I think my voice would be missed," he said.

Miller stressed that the districts as drawn are unacceptable. While he expected Republicans to draw more compact Democratic districts around the Triangle, those passed by the General Assembly went much further than he thought they would.

"The first priority for all of us in the delegation is to fight the map," Miller says.

Price said the new districts, including the 4th, are legally questionable under the Voting Rights Act, mainly because they pack most of the power of the state's black voters into three districts.

While Miller believes there is strong merit to the arguments against the GOP redistricting plan, it is uncertain how actions by the courts or Department of Justice will affect the districts and the next election. Initial responses to the maps may not be known until the end of the year, he says. The Justice Department has a range of remedies, including ordering the court to draw the maps or instructing the Legislature to redraw them.

This could delay the primary date. In 2002, a redistricting fight delayed the May 7 primaries until Sept. 8.

Meanwhile, Miller has been calling supporters in the new 4th, including friends and family in Fayetteville.

Miller says the uncertainty over the race is also likely to affect fundraising since he and Price share many supporters. He says he's been upfront this cycle in telling donors that he may run in a different district.

Campaign reports show that as of June 30, Miller has $126,877 in cash on hand. A heated 2010 race against Republican B.J. Lawson depleted some of Price's campaign coffer; he has $71,581 in available cash. The next campaign finance reports for congressional candidates are due Oct. 15.

This story was originally published on our news blog, Triangulator.

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