The Great Big North Carolina Primary Roundup

by Jim Geraghty

North Carolina holds its primary election Tuesday.

The highest-profile race is in North Carolina’s GOP Senate primary, competing to take on incumbent Democratic senator Kay Hagan in November.

State house speaker and past ALEC Legislator of the Year Thom Tillis is the front-runner, according to the two most recent polls, but a candidate must win 40 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff. Tillis is hovering right around that threshold.

If he goes to a runoff, his most likely rival is medical doctor and conservative activist Greg Brannon, who has been endorsed by Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee. Pastor Mark Harris, former Shelby mayor Ted Alexander, Navy veteran Alex Bradshaw, and nurse and Army veteran Heather Grant round out the field.

Polling finds Hagan in a close race with both Tillis and Brannon.

North Carolina’s second congressional district features one of the House primaries that might get some attention, between GOP representative Renee Ellmers and Frank Roche, who has scored some tea-party endorsements. This district attracted some fairly high-profile Democratic competition: former state commerce secretary Keith Crisco and Clay Aiken, American Idol singer. Still, Democrats will face an uphill climb; the district scores a R+10 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index.

In North Carolina’s third congressional district, Taylor Griffin was endorsed by his old boss, Sarah Palin, in his primary challenge to ten-term GOP representative Walter Jones. The primary winner will be heavily favored in November, as this is an R+11 district.

In North Carolina’s sixth congressional district, GOP representative Howard Coble is retiring, setting off a big primary fight for the nomination in this R+10 district. It’s unlikely that any candidate will win 40 percent, so a runoff is expected. If fundraising success equaled votes — which it doesn’t, obviously — the top contenders would be Bruce VonCannon, former CEO for the banking arm of the Rothschild Group, Rockingham County district attorney Phil Berger Jr., Greensboro city-council member Zach Matheny, and minister Mark Walker.

In North Carolina’s seventh congressional district, incumbent Democrat Mike McIntyre announced he’s retiring, offering Republicans a golden pickup opportunity in this R+12 district. Former state senator David Rouzer and former state senator Woody White are the two top contenders for the nomination here.

In North Carolina’s heavily Democratic twelfth congressional district (D+26), Representative Mel Watt has resigned to become head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The seat is currently vacant; six Democrats are competing for the nomination.

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Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.