Nickel wins Triangle congressional seat, boosting NC Democrats' numbers in US House

Democratic state Sen. Wiley Nickel defeated Republican political newcomer Bo Hines in North Carolina's 13th Congressional District.

Posted Updated

Bryan Anderson
, WRAL state government reporter
Democratic state Sen. Wiley Nickel won North Carolina’s lone toss-up congressional district, giving his party a critical seat in its bid to maintain control of the U.S. House and further President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
Nickel defeated Republican political newcomer Bo Hines in a highly contentious race where both candidates argued the other was too extreme ideologically to represent voters in the 13th Congressional District — a conservative area that has become more moderate as newcomers have flocked to the Triangle and settled in the district.
Nickel led Hines by 2.6 percentage points when Hines conceded the race late Tuesday.

In Congress, Nickel wants to expand access to health care, make home ownership more attainable for first-time buyers and work to bring down rising costs residents have seen just about everywhere in their lives over the past year.

"I understand why so many people feel unheard and left behind," Nickel told supporters Tuesday night. "There is a disconnect between Washington, D.C., and everyday Americans. I believe in North Carolina. I believe in the future of North Carolina and I know voters are ready for change and they're ready for progress."

A WRAL News poll showed the economy as the overwhelming top concern of voters across the state.

Hines’ loss comes as a blow to a coalition of Republicans closely aligned with former President Donald Trump. Even so, celebration for Nickel could be short-lived; the district lines are only to be used for this year’s election. Democrats also might not retain their congressional majorities starting next year.

Nickel won with the backing of many local and state leaders and benefited from sizable outside spending from national Democratic groups working against Hines. The state senator also faced his fair share of attack ads in the leadup to Tuesday’s election. Club for Growth Action, a conservative group based in Washington, D.C., spent more than $2.7 million to bolster Hines, including nearly $1.1 million in the general election.

Nickel loaned his campaign at least $900,000.

In the general election, Nickel softened his messaging and increasingly spoke to voters’ economic frustrations. He cited his work in the legislature and a 30-point with lots of generalities and a few specifics on how he’d address rising costs voters have seen just about everywhere in their lives over the past year.

Despite having a reputation as one of the most liberal state lawmakers since his 2019 election, Nickel presented himself as the middle-of-the-road candidate who could work with Republicans to deliver tangible results for the district.

Hines was unsuccessful in his efforts to link Nickel to President Joe Biden and a Democratic Party he blamed for inflation. The Republican also took aim at Nickel’s record on crime, highlighting cases in which Nickel’s law firm defended violent criminals and a bill the Democrat opposed in the legislature that would have compelled local law enforcement agencies to work more closely with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in detaining people who entered the U.S. unlawfully.

Hines ran with the backing of Trump and other controversial Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and U.S. Reps. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Marjorie Taylor-Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida.

"I want to congratulate Wiley Nickel," Hines said during a concession speech Tuesday. "I pray that God's with him in his leadership and I'll be praying for him every single day. I hope he loves this community as much as I do." During the speech, Hines hinted at ambitions to run again.

Wiley Nickel

Hines came out on top in a crowded eight-person primary field after moving to the district weeks before the election. He campaigned extensively in western North Carolina on social issues, immigration, crime and education in 2021 and early 2022. After revised maps created no politically viable home for him outside Greensboro, he went to the district that includes parts of Wake, Wayne and Harnett counties and all of Johnston County.

Hines vowed to continue fighting for the issues he articulated on the campaign trail.

"This is just the beginning," Hines told supporters. "We're still going to fight for this country and I'm going to continue working my tail off to make sure that we're fighting for conservative values here in the state of North Carolina. I'm confident that conservative values will prevail in this country, not only here in this state but across the entire nation."

Nickel went on the offensive in lead-up to the election, taking aim at Hines’ lack of longevity in the community, while Hines noted Nickel couldn’t vote for himself because his Cary home was just outside the congressional district lines.

Abortion—also a top issue for North Carolina voters — became a central part of Nickel’s messaging after the U.S. Supreme Court decided to strike down Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision that established federal abortion protections. Hines argued Nickel would make access to the medical procedure far too accessible, while Nickel said Hines would prohibit abortion altogether.

At times, Hines suggested a desire for blanket abortion restrictions but consistently said he’d support it in cases where a woman’s life is at risk. He later said he’d want exceptions for rape and incest on a case-by-case basis. He said he views it as a community-level decision, but his campaign clarified Hines thought the matter was best left up to state legislators and voters in those communities who choose their representatives.

“I think we can take a look at several different options to set up a review process,” Hines told WRAL News in an October interview. “I think it comes down to an individual community level. That's nothing the federal government should have a role in.”

Nickel pounced on Hines’ abortion views, arguing they show he’s unfit to represent voters and could harm women’s health. He vowed to work with Republicans in the U.S. House.


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