2012 elections preview: What to watch for in North Carolina congressional and legislative primaries

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May 7, 2012

By Ballotpedia's Congressional and State legislative teams

The fast-moving primary season of May and June begins tomorrow with elections in Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia. Both Indiana and West Virginia have a U.S. Senate seat up for election in 2012. All three states will elect representatives to the U.S. House. On the state level, both state Senate and state House seats are on the ballot in all three states.

Contested Primaries in North Carolina -- May 8, 2012
U.S. House
(13 seats)
State Legislature
(170 seats)
Total Democratic Contested Primaries 8 (61.54%) 35 (20.59%)
Total Republican Contested Primaries 10 (76.9%) 55 (32.35%)

In North Carolina, voters will also select party nominees for president and state governor, as well as take up a proposed amendment to the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Turnout is expected to be high.[1]

In contrast, early voting numbers predict low turnout in West Virginia.[2] Indiana officials do not expect unusually high turnout for their primary.[3]

Ballotpedia will be previewing the elections in all three states. Here's what to watch in North Carolina tomorrow, where polls will be open from 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM EST.[4]


United States House of Representatives elections in North Carolina, 2012

North Carolina has a total of 13 seats on the ballot in 2012. A total of 74 candidates have filed to run, made up of 19 Democratic challengers, 45 Republican challengers, and 10 incumbents. Including the three states with primaries tomorrow, a total of 96 U.S. House seats have held primaries. Thus far, 57.29% of possible primaries have been contested. North Carolina's contested figure of 69.23% (18 of 26 possible party primaries) is more competitive than the national average.

In the 13 congressional districts, there are 7 Democratic races contested, with two or more candidates running, and 10 Republican contested races. The Democratic races with a single candidate running unopposed are the 3rd District, 6th District, 7th District, and the 9th District.

On the Republican side there are 3 unopposed races in the primary. Incumbents Virginia Foxx from the 5th District, and challengers Pete DiLauro from the 1st District and Jack Brosch from the 12th District are all running unopposed in their primary election bids.

Open seats in the 9th District, 11th District and 13th District have led to a primary battles on both the Democratic and Republican tickets.

The seat in 9th District is open in 2012 for the first time in 18 years, and only the fifth time in 60 years. When incumbent Sue Myrick (R) announced her retirement, a barrage of Republican contenders filed to run for the seat. As a result, a total of 10 Republican candidates are on the primary ballot, making it the state’s most crowded primary. The 9th District has also been among the nation’s most expensive primary races this cycle. Former state senator Robert Pittenger invested $1.1 million of his own money in the race.[5] Only two other candidates in the country invested more of their personal funds. Charlotte councilman Dan Barry also spent $500,000 on TV ads alone.[6] Myrick attempted to appoint a successor by endorsing former sheriff Jim Pendergraph. Last week, however, Pendergraph stirred controversy by making some "birther" comments at a campaign event that resulted in the Charlotte Observer rescinding its endorsement.[7] Whoever wins the primary is also favored to win the general election in November.

The 11th District also has crowded primary fields, after Democratic incumbent Heath Shuler announced his intention not to run for re-election earlier this year.[8] Shuler’s district was re-drawn during the redistricting process to favor Republicans. As a result, Shuler, who is widely considered to be a moderate Democrat, became another casualty within the Blue Dog Coalition.[9]. One noteworthy Democrat running to replace Shuler is the congressman’s former chief of staff, Hayden Rogers. Rogers -- if he wins the primary -- will face a very tough race against whoever emerges from the Republican primary field and its eight contenders.

Another Republican primary of note is in 13th District, where Democratic incumbent Brad Miller decided not to run for re-election.[10] In that race, former U.S. Attorney George E.B. Holding loaned his campaign more than a quarter-million dollars.[11] A friendly Super PAC spent an additional $500,000 on TV ads supporting his candidacy.[11] Challenger Paul Coble has spent two decades in local politics and started the race more well-known. However, Coble has trailed far behind in the monetary battle. The heated contest drew some controversy when both Holding and Coble attempted to use the political coattails of former Republican Representative Jesse Helms. Coble is Helms' nephew, while Holding twice worked under the late congressman.[12]

Members of the U.S. House from North Carolina -- Partisan Breakdown
Party As of November 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 7 4
     Republican Party 6 9
Total 13 13

State legislature

North Carolina State Senate elections, 2012 and North Carolina House of Representatives elections, 2012

In North Carolina, there are 170 total legislative seats with elections in 2012. There are 35 (20.59%) contested Democratic primaries and 55 (32.35%) contested Republican primaries. Thus, there will be 90 races tomorrow with at least two candidates on the ballot. The 26.47% figure of contested primaries in North Carolina is higher than the current national contested average of 23.42% for states that have had filing deadlines.

Some of the state house races of note:

North Carolina State Senate
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 19 18
     Republican Party 31 32
Total 50 50

North Carolina House of Representatives
Party As of November 5, 2012 After the 2012 Election
     Democratic Party 52 43
     Republican Party 67 77
     Vacancy 1 0
Total 120 120

See also

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