*News update at bottom of post.
Today is primary day in North Carolina, and Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling just released their last poll for the Republican nomination race. Previously, PPP projected state House Speaker Thom Tillis to be exceeding the 40 percent threshold required to claim the nomination without a run-off (46 percent), but they now detect a weakening position.
According to their latest data (May 3-4; 925 NC Republican primary voters), Tillis would garner exactly 40 percent of the Republican primary vote, compared to physician Greg Brannon’s 28 percent, and Charlotte pastor Mark Harris’ 15 percent. In a potential run-off between Tillis and Brannon, the speaker’s lead is only six points, as the candidates register a 46-40 percent split.
It’s not surprising to see Tillis taking a hit. All of the candidates, including incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan (D), are launching attacks and attempting to deny Tillis the nomination for their own political reasons.
All late polling slots Tillis in first place and Brannon in second. The question to be answered when votes are counted tonight, is whether the North Carolina state legislative leader can win outright. At worst, it appears Tillis will finish first but then be forced to a costly mid-July run-off that will only benefit Sen. Hagan.
NC House Primaries
Three US House races are of note in the North Carolina primary: the contests in the 3rd and open 6th and 7th Districts. In the eastern 3rd CD, veteran Rep. Walter Jones Jr. faces Republican Taylor Griffin, a former George W. Bush US Treasury Department official. Griffin is hitting Jones from the right, attempting to exploit the many times Jones strays from the party leadership position. The challenger has raised less than $300,000, so it is unlikely that he will have enough steam to topple the 10-term incumbent.
In the Greensboro open seat, where Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC-6) is retiring after 30 years in office, expect Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. to win the Republican nomination outright.
In the open 7th CD, anchored in the Wilmington area, 2012 GOP nominee David Rouzer is engaged in a spirited contest with New Hanover County Commissioner Woody White, a former state senator. Rouzer came within 600 votes of defeating Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) in the last election. He is the favorite, but under sustaining attack from his right.
*Thom Tillis, the state House speaker, has won 45.7 percent of the vote, according to The Associated Press, with nearly 100 percent of the votes counted — well above the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. Rep. Jones, an Iraq war opponent whose family is well-known in the red district, defeated Taylor Griffin.