Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Analyzing the North Carolina Run-off Elections

In Election Analysis, House on July 18, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Yesterday’s North Carolina congressional run-off elections concluded with three districts producing Republican nominees, all with strong chances of winning the general election in November.

In the 8th District, occupying the area to the north and east of Charlotte and around Fayetteville, business consultant and former congressional aide Richard Hudson won a landslide 64-36 percent win over dentist and ex-Iredell County Commissioner Scott Keadle. Only 16,078 votes were cast in the secondary election, just under 4 percent of the entire universe of registered voters. It was a decisive win for Hudson, who built a coalition comprised of conservatives, Washington insiders, and North Carolina establishment individuals and entities. Some national conservative organizations, such as the Club for Growth, supported Keadle’s unsuccessful candidacy.

Hudson now challenges two-term Rep. Larry Kissell (D) in a district that has been radically re-configured. With the new 8th being 21 points better for Republicans based upon the Obama-McCain 2008 presidential election scale, and Kissell only currently representing 54 percent of the new territory, it is arguable that Hudson is now the favorite here even against the incumbent. Republican map architects designed this seat to be one of the best GOP conversion opportunities in the country, and Hudson is proving worthy of the task of unseating an incumbent. We will hear much more from this campaign in the coming weeks.

To the west, encompassing most of Charlotte proper and stretching northward more than half-way toward Winston-Salem, the 9th District also has a new Republican nominee. For all intents and purposes, last night’s vote actually selected the new congressman here because this seat trends safe Republican. With Rep. Sue Myrick (R) retiring after nine terms, 11 candidates ran in the original primary and the field whittled down to former state Sen. Robert Pittenger
and Mecklenburg County Commissioner and ex-sheriff Jim Pendergraph. As was the case in the primary, the result ended in relatively close fashion.

Mr. Pittenger, who spent more than $2 million of his own money and was the self-proclaimed most conservative candidate in the race, clinched a 53-47 percent win last night. The former state senator is now the prohibitive favorite to defeat Democratic Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts in the general election.

The new 9th went for John McCain in 2008 by a 54-45 percent count, one point under the margin from the current 9th CD. Three-quarters of the territory remains constant in the new district. More than 35,000 people voted, the largest congressional turnout in the state. Though Pendergraph took Mecklenburg County by a 51-49 percent margin, Pittenger’s strong performance in Iredell (70-30 percent) and Union (57-43 percent) counties was enough to offset him losing the most populous area.

Moving to far western North Carolina, in the Asheville area seat being vacated by retiring three-term Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler, businessman Mark Meadows becomes the 2012 Republican nominee for the new 11th Congressional District. He swamped entrepreneur Vance Patterson 76-24 percent in a run-off race that was never close. Almost 23,000 votes were cast in this run-off, the second highest of the three congressional contests decided last evening.

Meadows will now face Democratic nominee Hayden Rogers, Shuler’s chief of staff. The Republican businessman has the inside track to victory in the general election because the post-redistricting 11th has swung hard toward the GOP. On the Obama-McCain scale, the new NC-11 is now the most Republican district in the state, moving a net 13 partisan points.

Because North Carolina figures to be the Republicans’ best state countrywide during these elections, and will neutralize a similar Democratic performance in Illinois, it is likely that all three men nominated last night will win their respective general elections. So, despite a statewide voter turnout of only 3.58 percent, this North Carolina run-off election will prove significant when painting the 2012 national political picture.

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