Republicans are going to see intense intra-party contests in NC-2 and NC-3 next May, but it also looks like Democrats won’t be deprived of the primary fun. Former state senator Malcolm Graham is apparently planning to challenge Rep. Alma Adams in NC-12, the notorious I-85 snake district which some publications have called the most gerrymandered district in America. Graham, of Charlotte, lost to Adams in the 2014 primary.
Now, Graham (who tragically lost his sister in last month’s Charleston shooting) is apparently looking to do what he didn’t get a chance to do last time: defeat Adams in a one-on-one contest. In ’14, most thought that Adams’ Greensboro residency would be a detriment to her candidacy, as most of the vote in the Twelfth is in Charlotte.
Instead, it may have helped her. A gaggle of candidates emerged from the Charlotte area, including Mr. Graham, while Adams consolidated the significant Triad vote and won endorsements from women’s groups like Emily’s List. The result? In a significant show of strength, Adams won the primary – and essentially a congressional seat – without a runoff, thanks to North Carolina’s 40% threshold. Afterward, she was easily elected to a term in Congress and the unexpired term of Rep. Mel Watt, and has been serving since November.
Based on this, one might think Ms. Adams would be quite vulnerable as she seeks reelection. If the Charlotte vote is no longer divided, and Adams doesn’t grow her support from the 2014 primary … but those are some big ifs. In addition, looking at the results from the 2014 primary, one discovers that the total vote for the Triad candidates prevailed over the total vote for the Charlotte candidates (Rep. Marcus Brandon of Greensboro received 8%). That probably speaks to some significant crossover appeal for Adams in the Charlotte area, appeal that the Charlotte candidates lacked in the Triad.
In other words, Adams’ victory last year wasn’t a fluke. It came about on the basis of a campaign that exceeded the expectations of many political analysts. If anything, she’s likely to be even stronger next time around, as her status as an incumbent Congresswoman will be beneficial to her, especially on the fundraising side of things.
So if Graham runs, can he beat Adams next year? Color me skeptical. (Though given my track record of predictions of late, perhaps Graham should start planning the design of his D.C. office.) The best predictor of campaign success tends to be running successful campaigns in the past, and if that holds up then Adams will be well-positioned for a second term … and more.
John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: email@example.com.