New NC congressional districts attract a flood of candidates

Published: Mar. 29, 2016 at 1:04 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 28, 2016 at 1:13 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (Jim Morrill/The Charlotte Observer) - New districts not only have shuffled North Carolina's congressional primaries but created a rare opportunity for candidates to win with just a fraction of the vote.

Not surprisingly, some districts have drawn a crowd. Twenty-two candidates are running in the new 13th District, which runs from Mooresville to Greensboro. Seventeen are in the Republican primary alone.

If upheld by federal judges, the June 7 primaries will set up a 10-week sprint for candidates across the state.

The new districts came about when those same judges ruled the 1st and 12th Districts were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. Lawmakers responded by redrawing virtually all of the state's 13 districts.

The new map left some members of Congress far from their districts.

Republican U.S. Rep. George Holding of Raleigh, who represents the 13th District, found himself in the 2nd District and is now challenging incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers. Democratic U.S. Rep. Alma Adams of Greensboro plans to move to Charlotte after her 12th District was moved to Mecklenburg County.

At the same time, the General Assembly made it possible for lawmakers who won their primary on March 15 to run in the congressional primary – and keep their legislative seat if they lose.

"It's clear from the new map that legislators prioritized the interests of their own members over North Carolina's members of Congress," said David Wasserman, an analyst with the Washington-based Cook Political Report.

The legislature added one more twist. For this year only, there are no runoff elections. That means no candidate has to get at least 40 percent of the vote to win. Combine that with an open seat like the 13th, it's not surprising to find a crowded field.

"These opportunities are rare," said Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Salisbury's Catawba College. "Incumbency is a powerful reelection factor. And when that factor isn't there everybody's going to take the gamble and try to see if they can become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives."

Here's a look at Charlotte-area races.

8th District

Republican U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson of Concord lost some counties and gained others in his redrawn district. He also gained a primary foe who has run in the 8th and other districts.

Tim D'Annunzio of Hoke County first ran in the 8th in 2010. Two years later, he ran in the 4th District and in December filed for the 2nd District. His 2010 campaign was known for fundraisers he called "machine-gun socials" and for his being disavowed by state party officials.

Democratic consultant Thomas Mills of Carrboro is the only Democrat on the ballot in the district where Democrats still outnumber Republicans.

9th District

Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte finds himself in a district that now stretches 150 miles east to Bladen County.

Two Republicans are challenging the second-term lawmaker.

Charlotte pastor Mark Harris, who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2014, formally announced his candidacy Monday, pledging to fight for the "vital principles of limited government, liberty, faith, and family." Supporting him is former Rep. Sue Myrick, who also endorsed a previous Pittenger opponent.

Former Union County Commissioner Todd Johnson rounds out the GOP primary. The winner takes on Democratic newcomer Christian Cano.

10th District

Three Republicans – Albert Wylie, Jeffrey Baker and Jeff Gregory – are challenging incumbent GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry. Wylie is from Carteret County along the N.C. coast.

The winner faces Democrat Andy Millard of Tryon.

12th District

Three state lawmakers and a former lawmaker are among the seven Democrats challenging Alma Adams in the newly configured district.

The 12th, which ran from Charlotte to Greensboro, now is contained within Mecklenburg County.

Rep. Tricia Cotham of Matthews and Reps. Carla Cunningham and Rodney Moore as well as former Sen. Malcolm Graham, all of Charlotte, are trying to unseat the first-term congresswoman. They're joined by Gardenia Henley of Winston-Salem and Rick Miller of Guilford County.

Republicans Leon Threatt, Ryan Duffie and Paul Wright also are running in the predominantly Democratic district. Wright of Wayne County lost this month's U.S. Senate primary.

13th District

The state's most crowded race is just north of Mecklenburg in a district that includes Iredell, Davie and Davidson counties and parts of Rowan and Guilford counties.

The 22-candidate race includes four GOP lawmakers and four former statewide candidates, including two who lost primaries in other races this month.

With so many candidates, the primary winners won't need a huge plurality.

"If you get your family out, that's a good step at building a base," Bitzer said.

Democrats running are Adam Coker, Bob Isner, Bruce Davis, Kevin Griffin and Mazie Ferguson.

Republicans are state Sen. Andrew Brock, Chad Gant, Dan Barrett, David Thompson, Farren Shoaf, George Rouco, Hank Henning, state Rep. Harry Warren, Jason Walser, Jim Snyder, state Rep. John Blust, state Rep. Julia Howard, Kathy Feather, Matthew McCall, Kay Daly, Ted Budd and Vernon Robinson.