The North Carolina Filings

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By Jim Ellis

Dec. 24, 2019 — Candidate filing in the Tar Heel State closed Friday, and the North Carolina political contestants are now set for the March 3 Super Tuesday state primary. In addition to the presidential race, North Carolina voters will choose nominees for governor, US Senate, 13 congressional races, the state constitutional offices, and state legislature.

No surprises came from the presidential filings, though 38 individuals filed to run for the nation’s highest office. Twenty of the 38 are minor party candidates, however. Fifteen Democrats are running, including all of the major contenders. President Trump draws Republican primary opposition from former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld and Illinois ex-congressman Joe Walsh.

Sen. Thom Tillis sees only minor Republican primary opposition and now is a cinch for re-nomination. Businessman Garland Tucker was expected to run a competitive primary race but decided to end his effort prior to the filing deadline. When Rep. Mark Walker (R-Greensboro) was drawn out of a winnable district in the court-mandated redistricting plan, he began considering entering the Senate race. The congressman, however, ultimately decided to wait a cycle and looks to run for Sen. Richard Burr’s (R) open seat in 2022.

Five Democrats filed for the Senate, but the nomination battle is realistically between former state senator Cal Cunningham, who is the party leadership favorite, and state Sen. Erica Smith (D-Gaston). The eventual Democratic nominee will face Sen. Tillis in what promises to be a competitive general election in a state that has defeated more incumbents in the modern political era than any other place.

The House picture has changed greatly since the district boundaries were altered for the third time this decade. Democrats will gain at least two seats as the Republican incumbents in Districts 2 and 6, Reps. George Holding (R-Raleigh) and Walker, are retiring rather than run in heavily Democratic domains. Both, however, are looking to return in new 2022 political contests.

In the 2nd District, the Democratic primary is largely between former state representative and 2016 US Senate nominee Deborah Ross and Wake County School Board member Monika Johnson-Hostler.

In the Greensboro-anchored 6th District, the Democratic primary yields what appears to be a four-way contest among former congressional candidate Kathy Manning, state Rep. Derwin Montgomery (D-Winston-Salem), ex-state representative Ed Hanes, Jr., and ex-Guilford County commissioner Bruce Davis. If no candidate reaches 30 percent of the vote on March 3, the top two finishers will advance to a May 12 run-off election.

With Rep. Mark Meadows (R-Skyland/Asheville) announcing a surprise retirement just before filing closed, many believed the GOP primary for the safely Republican 11th District in the state’s western tail would be a small affair.

Such is not the case, however. With less than 48 hours of qualifying time remaining, 12 Republicans surprisingly stepped forward including state Sen. Jim Davis (R-Franklin), Matthew Burril, a Buncombe County Economic Development commissioner, former North Carolina Republican Party vice chairman Wayne King, and business owner Vance Patterson. Therefore, we will see a competitive primary here on March 3 that could necessitate a run-off.

The two special congressional election winners who captured their seats earlier this year, Reps. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville) and Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte), are in strong shape for re-election.

Rep. Murphy is unopposed in the Republican primary and will face activist Daryl Farrow in the general election. Rep. Bishop is also unopposed in his Republican primary, while Democratic businessman Dan McCready, who spent $13 million in the last two election cycles, did not file for the 2020 campaign. The strongest of the four Democrats who did enter the race appears to be Hoke County Commissioner Harry Southerland.

Six of the 10 incumbents seeking re-election to the House are unopposed in their primaries. Of the four with challenges, Reps. David Price (D-Chapel Hill), David Rouzer (R-Wilmington), Patrick McHenry (R-Lake Norman), and Alma Adams (D-Charlotte), none of the incumbents appear to face serious contests.

Gov. Roy Cooper (D) seeks a second term and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R) will assuredly oppose him in the general election. Both Cooper and Forest face only minor competition in their respective primaries.

North Carolina, always a swing state, will be a major political battleground again in 2020. It is one of the pivotal states in the national election, and a place President Trump must win if he is to be re-elected. On the other hand, the eventual Democratic nominee topping Trump here would launch an electoral pathway to the Presidency.

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