Raleigh, N.C. — Voters who wait until November to weigh in on this year's elections will miss their chance to affect the outcome of dozens of races throughout the state.
For example, the winner of the Charlotte area's Republican primary in the 9th Congressional District – where first-term incumbent Robert Pittenger faces Mike Steinberg – is almost assured of election this fall. There is no Democratic or Libertarian candidate registered to run, so barring an unusually successful write-in candidate or as-yet unannounced unaffiliated candidate, the winner of the Republican primary will win the election.
The 9th Congressional district race is North Carolina's only federal campaign this year where a primary is virtually the last word in the election. But dozens of state legislative seats and county-level elections will be all but decided after the polls close May 6.
For example, 9 state Senate seats and 15 state House seats will have a primary in one party, but no candidates from the state's other two officially recognized parties are registered to run. Of course, there are some districts where there is even less competition. There are 12 of 50 state Senate seats and 43 of 120 state House seats where only one candidate of any party has filed to run for office.
In the vast majority of those races, the primary victor is virtually assured of a win.
It is possible for candidates not registered as Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian to get on the ballot by gathering signatures. Those unaffiliated candidates have to gather enough signatures and submit petitions by late June. Although a state legislative candidate won election in 2010 as an unaffiliated candidate, such wins are rare.
Among the primaries in the Triangle area that likely will be settled on Tuesday are:
Senate District 3 (Edgecombe County): Incumbent Democrat Clark Jenkins faces two challengers, Alan Mizelle and Erica Smith-Ingram.
Senate District 21 (Cumberland and Hoke Counties): Incumbent Ben Clark is in a four-way primary with three other Democrats. The challengers are Eronomy (Mohammed) Smith, Billy R. King, and Sylvia Adamczyk.
House District 23 (Edgecombe and Martin Counties): Incumbent Rep. Joe Tolson is retiring. Four Democrats are running to replace him, including, Bronson Williams, Shelly Willingham, and Taro Knight, R. B. (Rusty) Holderness.
House District 24 (Wilson and Pitt Counties): Incumbent Rep. Jeanne Farmer-Butterfield faces off against Mark Bibbs in the Democratic primary.
House District 27 (Halifax and Northampton Counties): Incumbent Rep. Michael Wray is in a Democratic primary against Franklin D. Williams, Jr.
Sheriff: Sheriff Michael Andrews, a Democrat, has two primary challengers but no Republican is filed to run in the race. His challengers are Clarence Birkhead, a former Hillsborough police chief, and Richard Buchanan, who retired as a major from the sheriff's office.
District Attorney: A temporary district attorney was appointed to replace Tracy Cline, after she was removed from office. Three Democrats, but no Republican, are running for the job. They include Mitchell Garrell, a lawyer who used to work in the Durham prosecutor's office, Roger Echols, the office's current chief prosecutor, and Brian Aus, a criminal defense attorney.
Sheriff: Six candidates are running in the Democratic primary to replace the retiring long-time incumbent, Lindy Pendergrass. There is no Republican in the race. The six competitors are Keith Webster, a lieutenant with the Carrboro police department, Buddy Parker, a sergeant with the Hillsborough police department, Larry D. Faucette, a captain in the sheriff's office, Andy Cagle, a business manager, David Caldwell, Jr, a former lieutenant in the sheriff's office, and Charles Blackwood, a major with the sheriff's office.