Local legislative incumbents weather primary challenges

Posted March 15
Updated March 16

NC Legislative Building

— A pair of top House leaders who had been challenged from their political right led the list of legislative incumbents who weathered their primary campaigns Tuesday.

Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, and Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, both held commanding leads as unofficial results rolled into the State Board of Elections.

Dollar has been the top budget writer in the state House, while Lewis is the powerful Rules Committee chairman. Both faced challengers who said they had lost sight of their conservative roots.

In a Cary-based district, Dollar faced a challenge from Mark Villee, a Cary business owner who was backed by Republican financier Bob Luddy. Dollar also faced criticism from Americans for Prosperity, a conservative nonprofit group that knocked on doors and made phone calls to voters criticizing the incumbent, although a spokesman for the group insists it wasn't explicitly backing Villee.

Despite failing to stop Dollar, Luddy's claimed a small measure of victory, saying it had cut his margin of victory.

"We hope this served as a serious wake-up call for Dollar, who can count on us being back this fall with an even more aggressive campaign if he doesn’t clean up his self-serving, big-spending ways," said Keith Tatum, a consultant for the group.

Dollar took about 56 percent of the vote, according to complete but unofficial returns. He will face Democrat Jennifer Ferrell of Apex, who won her party's primary Tuesday night.

Lewis fended off a change from Chuck Levorse, a former Harnett County Board of Education member who had accused the incumbent of getting too comfortable in Raleigh.

"The momentum gained in this primary election will carry on through the summer and into November where we will again go back to Raleigh and continue on the path to economic prosperity," Lewis said Tuesday night.

Local Democratic incumbents also fared well.

Reps. Rosa Gill, D-Wake, and Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson, and Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, all led early returns in their legislative districts.

One of the closest legislative races in the state featured

One of the closest races of the evening featured, Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanely, a conservative who has been critical of state House Speaker Tim Moore. He lead his race against Lane Burris 6,342 to 6,100 votes once all precincts were counted.

In another close race, freshman Rep. Lee Zachary, a Republican representing Alexander and Yadkin counties and part of Wilkes County. He held on for a 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent win against challenger Dwight Shook.

That said, incumbents in other parts of the state either lost their races or found themselves in contests too close to call.

Rep. Ralph Johnson, D-Guilford, lost to local radio personality Amos Quick.

There was more suspense in races where the parties were picking nominees to fill open seats.

In Raleigh, Jay Chaudhuri bested Ellis Hankins in the Democratic primary for Senate District 16, the seat Sen. Josh Stein gave up when he opted to run for attorney general. Chaudhuri is a lawyer who has worked for both State Treasurer Janet Cowell and Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Other primary races in contests for open seats were too close to call, with only incomplete returns in.


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