The primary election is on Tuesday and North Carolina has had some surprisingly high-profile races on the ballot. The GOP primary for US Senate will determine who faces Democrat Cheri Beasley in what will certainly be one of the most watched Senate races of the cycle. The 11th Congressional district GOP primary will determine whether Madison Cawthorn gets another term. And the primaries in NC-01 and NC-04 will determine who replaces retiring Members of Congress G.K. Butterfield and David Price, though NC-01 could end up a competitive race in November.
The Senate race looks like it’s going to Trump endorsee Ted Budd. Budd has the momentum and former Governor Pat McCrory seems to be flailing. Budd got an assist from Club for Growth, which pummeled McCrory while he held a lead based mainly on name recognition. Budd is a Richard Burr type figure who is hard to define, which makes him hard to attack. McCrory went after him for siding with Russia over Ukraine, but the hit didn’t stick. In the end, Republicans aren’t willing to take another chance on McCrory who was a failed governor and has lost two out of three statewide races.
In the 11th Congressional district, a slew of GOP candidates is trying to stop the state’s great embarrassment from serving another term. Madison Cawthorn has been a terrible Representative who believed the job was an opportunity to build a national profile for saying stupid stuff. Incumbency is his great advantage but the political establishment in the state is trying to end his career and replace him with Senator Chuck Edwards. If they can keep Cawthorn under the 30% threshold and force a runoff, Edwards may be able to beat the Boy Blunder.
In NC-04, the race has come down to AIPAC verses the Bernie Bros. Foushee’s campaign has been heavily underwritten by AIPAC, the pro-Isreal PAC that is more scared of Nida Allam than supportive of Foushee. They’ve bundled money and run millions of dollars of TV ads supporting Foushee.
Nida Allam is the first Muslim woman elected to office in North Carolina and serves on the Durham County Board of Commissioners. She’s a veteran of the Bernie Sanders campaign and has been bankrolled by the same small dollar contributors that fueled Vermont Senator’s presidential campaigns. She’s an attractive candidate who clearly has a bright political future.
Former American Idol contestant Clay Aiken brings celebrity to the race. Aiken ran for Congress a few years ago and impressed folks with his political knowledge. He lives outside of the district this time and has not generated the buzz that his first race garnered. Still, he should be a bit of a factor.
A lot of other candidates are running, some of whom have interesting resumes and qualifications but haven’t built the war chests necessary to compete in a Congressional race. Still, the sheer number of candidates could shake the race up in a primary where a candidate needs 30% of the vote to avoid a runoff.
All of that said, state Senator Valerie Foushee should win this one based on the demographics alone. She’s a moderate African American woman from Orange in a race that should be more than 40% African American. Black voters over 50 years old are Democrats most reliable constituency and also among the most conservative. They aren’t likely to support Allam in large numbers even in Durham and they aren’t likely to abandon Foushee over the AIPAC brouhaha.
Foushee also fits the district better than any of the other candidates. While Durham may be a hub of young progressives, much of the district is not. Alamance, Granville, and Person Counties, as well as the rural parts of Orange and Durham, are all more moderate than the urban part of Durham or the most progressive parts of Orange. Foushee should be able consolidate support in Orange County where she’s served as a member of the school board, town council, county commission, state house, and state senate. I suspect she’ll win comfortably on Tuesday.
The race in NC-01 is also garnering attention. Former State Senator Erica Smith has been running for US Senator since about 2018, losing the 2020 to Cal Cunningham, and switched from the primary against Cheri Beasley when Butterfield decided not to run again. Current Senator Don Davis is her opponent. While Smith served as a very moderate state Senator, she’s been trying to own the progressive brand in her federal primaries. Again, rural African Americans are among the most conservative Democrats and Davis is courting them as the more moderate candidate.
AIPAC has also weighed in for Davis in this race, in part, because Smith’s endorsement from organizations that have urged curbing support for Israel. Like Allam, Smith has the endorsement of prominent progressives like Elizabeth Warren and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. In contrast, Davis has the endorsement of Butterfield and the Congressional Black Caucus. Like Foushee, Davis fits the district ideologically better than Smith. That said, I think this race is more of a toss-up. If women decide to vote for a woman candidate, Smith will win. If they vote more along ideological lines, Davis is the favorite.
The Democratic primary in NC-13 also has former state senate colleagues facing off. Former Senator Sam Searcy is facing current Senator Wiley Nickel. Nickel has been running a lot longer than Searcy, even if he was initially vying for the seat in the Fourth Congressional district before the lines got redrawn. Nickel seems to have the edge, but I haven’t been paying close attention. The winner will face a Republican in a district that leans a bit to the right.
In that Republican primary, 26 year old Madison Cawthorn want-to-be Bo Hines faces a bunch of candidates including former Congresswoman Renee Elmers. Hines has the support of Trump and the Club for Growth which has been dumping money into primaries here. I haven’t paid enough attention to this one, but people I respect think Hines will pull it out.