In NC, Republicans fend off Democratic US House challengers

Posted November 6, 2018 7:40 p.m. EST
Updated November 7, 2018 1:46 a.m. EST

— Democrats across the country may have picked up enough seats to gain control of the U.S. House Tuesday night. But in North Carolina, the party failed to flip any of the congressional seats held by Republicans in races targeted by millions of dollars in political advertising – aside from one race that could come down to a recount.

If the unofficial results Tuesday night stand, the makeup of the state's congressional delegation remains unchanged with 10 Republicans and three Democrats.

Republican 2nd District Congressman George Holding defeated Democratic challenger Linda Coleman in an expensive and hotly contested battle for a district that covers the outside edges of Wake County and areas to the south and northeast.

Unofficial election results Tuesday night showed Holding ahead of Coleman 51 to 46 percent. That's a closer contest than when Holding ran in the newly redrawn district in 2016, when he carried it over his Democratic opponent 57 to 43 percent.

During a brief victory speech, Holding told his supporters in Raleigh that, when he entered the race for Congress in 2012, "I ran to make a difference and not a career."

"We got out there and told people and reminded them that the economy is doing great because of a lot of the policies we've been able to enact in Washington over the last two years," he said. "I'm really happy that message got through."

But he acknowledged the Democratic gains other states saw Tuesday night – gains that will force him into the minority party come January.

"All of us who will be there are going to fight really hard to keep intact all the progress that we've made over the last two years," Holding said.

With all precincts reporting early Wednesday, unofficial results showed Republican Mark Harris led Democrat Dan McCready for the open seat in the 9th Congressional District by just 1,869 votes.

Harris delivered a victory speech to his supporters just after midnight. His lead over McCready is within the 1 percent threshold for a possible recount, but there's been no word yet from the Democrat's campaign about whether he'll demand one.

Republican 13th District Congressman Ted Budd also claimed victory over Democrat Kathy Manning in a contest national Democrats saw as competitive. The district lies west of the Triad region.

Budd led Manning by about 6 points, according to unofficial results from the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

Races in 10 of North Carolina's 13 congressional districts – all of them more reliably partisan – ended much earlier in the evening as the votes rolled in.

Republican incumbents Walter Jones, Virginia Foxx, Mark Walker, David Rouzer, Richard Hudson, Patrick McHenry and Mark Meadows kept their seats with comfortable margins. On the Democratic side, G.K. Butterfield, David Price and Alma Adams claimed their own safe wins.

Big spending in NC congressional races

By the standards of broadcast advertising, the Holding-Coleman matchup was the second-most expensive in the state, with estimated spending data from Kantar Media as of Nov. 5 clocking in at $4.3 million since April 1.

Holding's campaign has spent $750,000 to air ads in the Raleigh market, compared to Coleman's $560,000.

But third-party groups leveled the playing field. Three groups – Women Vote, North Carolinians for a Fair Economy and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – pitched in about $1.5 million for ads attacking Holding or supporting Coleman.

On the other side, the Republican-affiliated Congressional Leadership Fund, Conservative Leadership Alliance and National Republican Congressional Committee spent almost $1.4 million.

Speaking with supporters Tuesday night, Coleman said the glut of advertising had an effect.

"We did everything that we were supposed to do, and I think that we did an awesome job," Coleman said. "But I think that the thing that probably hurt us the most were those commercials, those negative attack ads."

The race for the 9th Congressional District, stretching along North Carolina's southern border from Charlotte to Fayetteville, far outstripped spending in any other race statewide. Groups in that contest spent more than $7 million on broadcast advertisements alone.