Hines faces GOP pushback to congressional bid ahead of NC Trump rally

Political newcomer Bo Hines is among those scheduled to speak at a Johnston County rally featuring President Donald Trump.

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Bryan Anderson
, WRAL state government reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — A 26-year-old political newcomer backed by former President Donald Trump is receiving pushback from local Republicans over his lack of time spent in a congressional district he wants to represent.

Bo Hines, the conservative who played football at North Carolina State University for one season, is pursuing a bid for a Raleigh-area seat about two hours from his Winston-Salem condo.

The Johnston County Republican Men’s Organization is circulating an ad that references Hines’ residence, writing, “WE CANNOT SUPPORT Bo Hines, a candidate from WINSTON-SALEM, for our congressman.”
The opposition to Hines reveals fractures within Trump’s base of support and it could highlight a broader rift between longtime Republicans and emerging hardline figures in the party. Trump in 2020 won Johnston County by 24 points.
The discord, which also illustrates quirks in state rules governing where candidates can run, comes ahead of a major showcase for Trump-backed conservatives in the state: A Saturday rally in the district where Trump, Hines and other Republicans are scheduled to speak.
In 2015, Hines left Raleigh to study politics and play as a wide receiver at Yale. Two years after his transfer, he expressed an interest in one day running for a congressional seat in the Charlotte area.
When he jumped into the political arena in 2021, he campaigned for a congressional seat in the Winston-Salem area, shifting districts multiple times as congressional maps changed through a highly contentious, monthslong redistricting process.

The new 13th Congressional District Hines is seeking includes southern Wake County, all of Johnston County and parts of Harnett and Wayne counties.

Hines’ campaign declined to comment on the ad. “With redistricting and everything that occurred, it was impossible for us to decide where we wanted to be,” Hines told WRAL in an interview last month.

Hines has secured an endorsement from Club for Growth Action, a powerful Washington, D.C., political action committee that began spending on the race this week. But his endorsement from Trump and his performance in the primary could carry greater consequences.

Spokespeople for Trump didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

What’s at stake for Trump, others

Trump’s reputation and influence over conservative politics in North Carolina will be tested in the 2022 primary. Losses by Trump-backed candidates could weaken the former president’s influence in future election cycles.

The former president’s endorsement hasn’t always secured victories in competitive North Carolina primary races. Former U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers lost in 2016 to fellow incumbent George Holding by 30 percentage points. Real estate agent Lynda Bennett fell to then-candidate Madison Cawthorn by 32 points in a 2020 runoff election.

Ellmers, a Dunn resident, is running against Hines. Lawyer Kelly Daughtry is also a top GOP contender. Republicans DeVan Barbour, Kent Keirsey, Jessica Morel, Chad Slotta and Kevin Alan Wolff are also running. Whichever Republican emerges victorious would likely square off against either Democratic state Sen. Wiley Nickel or former state Sen. Sam Searcy in the general election.

Cawthorn will speak at Trump’s event. Despite the former president’s support, Cawthorn faces seven Republican primary challengers, including state Sen. Chuck Edwards, who is backed by U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, state Senate leader Phil Berger and state House Speaker Tim Moore.

Meanwhile, the power of a Trump endorsement has already proved impactful in the U.S. Senate race. Budd this week overtook former Gov. Pat McCrory to capture a double-digit lead, according to one nonpartisan survey conducted by Emerson College and one from Club for Growth, Budd’s top financial backer.

Spending ramps up as election nears

Joe Kildea, a spokesman for Club for Growth, said the organization this week placed more than $1.3 million in media and mailer advertisements to boost Hines. Kildea said the group also has spent at least $8.4 million this election cycle to boost Trump-backed U.S. Senate candidate Ted Budd, and it plans to spend at least another $5.6 million ahead of the May 17 election.

“We are committed to victory and will spend whatever it takes,” Kildea said.

The spending from the Johnston County men’s group pales in comparison to the resources at Club for Growth’s disposal but underscores the frustration among some who view Hines as a political opportunist.

Club for Growth is primarily pushing ads to promote the fact Budd and Hines have secured Trump’s endorsement. In a minute-long radio ad, the group on four occasions touts Trump’s support for Hines, making it clear the fourth and final time. “In case [President] Joe Biden hears this, we now repeat our message in a way he can understand,” the narrator says before slowly spacing out four words. “Trump … endorsed … Bo … Hines.”

Hines to move to district he’s seeking to represent

State law allows U.S. House candidates to run for any North Carolina congressional seat—even if they live outside the district they want to represent—so long as they meet other ballot requirements. The requirements include being a registered North Carolina voter, resident of the state when elected, U.S. citizen for at least seven years and at least 25 years old by the November general election.

Hines’ campaign noted the aspiring congressman is planning before the May 17 primary election to move out of his downtown Winston-Salem condo to Fuquay-Varina, which is located in southern Wake County.

In an interview last month, Hines said all candidates were forced to essentially engage in “district shopping” due to ever-changing maps.

“The reality is that no one could have forecasted what this map was going to look like,” Hines said. “We have an absolutely ridiculous Democratic Supreme Court that threw out constitutional maps, and we’re going to have to deal with that in 2024. But I think the average voter understands that carpetbagging is when you move from a different state into a new place and try to run for Congress because it's easy. We're actually running in probably the most contentious primary in the state because we want to represent this community.”

After months of legal wrangling over voting maps drawn by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature, a panel of three North Carolina judges in February enacted a map that was redrawn by independent redistricting experts to be used only for the 2022 elections.
The finalized map was more favorable to Democrats, leaving Hines with no viable opportunity in his area unless he challenged a sitting member of Congress.

The Johnston County Republican Men’s Organization advertisement doesn’t dispute that Hines meets ballot requirements, but it questions whether he can adequately represent a community he has limited personal connections to.

Linwood Parker, a leader of the men’s group, didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

“The Republican Party has been fortunate to be able to provide sound leadership and conservative government to the people of Johnston County over the past 34 years,” the group wrote in the ad. “The reason has been our unity and the support of local candidates who campaign on issues important to the citizens of Johnston County.”