NC voters pick party nominees for US, state races

Posted May 6, 2014

— North Carolina voters were being given the opportunity Tuesday to choose primary candidates for dozens of state and federal offices, including a highly competitive U.S. Senate seat and the state Supreme Court.

Eight Republicans sought their party's Senate nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, who has her own primary against two lesser-known opponents. Two contenders are challenging an incumbent Supreme Court justice.

Primaries for three congressional seats where incumbents are retiring or resigned also attracted multiple candidates. A handful of General Assembly incumbents faced spirited challengers from party candidates.

Leading candidates need more than 40 percent of the vote to avoid summer runoffs.

Thom Tillis of Huntersville, the state House speaker when the General Assembly turned Republican for the first time in 140 years, was the strongest fundraiser in the Senate GOP race and received support from Republicans including former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Pat McCrory.

Greg Brannon, an obstetrician from Cary, and Mark Harris, a Baptist minister from Charlotte, are Tillis' lead rivals. Both have suggested Tillis isn't conservative enough or has political baggage that would make it difficult for him to defeat Hagan in November.

Tillis, Brannon and Harris have participated in three televised debates, along with Wilkesboro family nurse practitioner Heather Grant. Libertarians were also holding a rare Senate primary.

Voters in the Democrat-dominant 12th Congressional District were choosing nominees from both parties to succeed Rep. Mel Watt, who stepped down in January to take a federal post. Nine Republicans and two Democrats are running for the nominations in the 6th District, where GOP Rep. Howard Coble plans to retire after 30 years. Five candidates are seeking to succeed the retiring Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre in the 7th District.

"American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken is seeking the 2nd District Democratic nomination against former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and counselor Toni Morris. Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers also had a GOP primary rival.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Robin Hudson had two challengers for her seat. The two highest vote-getters in the officially nonpartisan race advance to face each other in the November general election. Hudson has been the target of campaign ads from an outside group questioning her dissenting opinion in a case involving satellite monitoring of convicted child molesters.

Tuesday's elections also feature primaries for other judgeships, district attorney and local government positions.

More than 259,000 people cast ballots in person during the early-voting period that ended Saturday — about 4 percent of North Carolina's 6.5 million registered voters, the State Board of Elections said. The early-voting turnout was higher than for the last midterm primary in 2010, when the overall turnout rate reached 14 percent.

The primaries are the first elections to be held under a new voting law the General Assembly passed last summer. The law reduces the number of days of in-person early voting from 17 to 10 and ends same-day registration starting with Tuesday's election.

The law also allows political parties to appoint additional poll observers to monitor precinct activities, and gives citizens wider latitude to challenge the actions or legitimacy of a fellow voter. Under the old law, any such challenge had to come from the precinct of the voter in question. The new law allows the challenge to come anywhere from within the voter's county.


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