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GOP runoffs to determine nominees for Congress, lieutenant governor and auditor

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North Carolina Elections (Photo: MGN Image)

RALEIGH, NC (AP) —What is expected to be a very small group of North Carolina voters will decide which Republicans will serve as the party’s nominees for a congressional district seat and for the statewide positions of lieutenant governor and auditor.

One of Tuesday’s GOP primary runoffs is for the 13th Congressional District, though one of the candidates who will appear on the ballot is no longer actively running. Kelly Daughtry, who finished first in the March 5 primary, announced last week that she was suspending her campaign and supporting Brad Knott, a former federal prosecutor from Raleigh who obtained the endorsement of former President and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Runoffs were called for by the second-place finisher in each of the March primaries after the leading vote-getter failed to receive more than 30% of the vote. There are also two other local elections next week.

Overall, 1.8 million people — about 24% of all eligible registered voters — cast ballots during the March 5 primary. Turnout for the runoff is expected to be much smaller. About 26,000 people had cast ballots through Wednesday, the State Board of Elections said.

These runoffs are “pretty low-octane affairs,” with less public campaigning and more efforts by candidates and volunteers to get the most committed allies out to vote, said David McLennan, a political science professor at Meredith College in Raleigh. “They really depend on the campaign’s ability to reach out to their supporters.”

In addition to registered Republicans, the GOP runoff voting is open to unaffiliated voters who either voted Republican in the March primaries or didn’t vote. There are no Democratic races.

In the congressional race, Daughtry said a pathway to victory for her was “no longer feasible” after Knott received Trump’s endorsement.

But the Johnston County attorney is still listed on the ballot, leaving open the possibility that she could win. It’s unlikely that she would accept the nomination, however, according to McLennan, who said such a move could sink her future in GOP politics. If she wins and doesn’t accept the nomination, it will be up to local Republicans to appoint the nominee.

Knott has warned supporters that despite his endorsement from Trump, he has not yet won, and reminded them to vote.

Fourteen Republicans were on the ballot in March for the newly reconfigured Republican-leaning 13th District, which covers all or parts of eight counties. The horseshoe-shaped boundaries arc around most of Raleigh and stretch from Lee County — then east and north — to the Virginia border.

The runoff winner will take on Democratic nominee Frank Pierce. The current 13th District congressman, Democrat Wiley Nickel, declined to seek reelection, citing the North Carolina legislature’s redistricting last fall that skewed the district to the right politically.

The runoff for lieutenant governor features Hal Weatherman, a former chief of staff to then-Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, and Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill. Weatherman finished first in the 11-candidate GOP primary.

The primary winner will take on Democratic nominee and state Sen. Rachel Hunt, who is also the daughter of former four-term Gov. Jim Hunt.

There aren’t any obvious major policy fissures between Weatherman and O’Neill. Weatherman has been endorsed by current Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who won the March GOP primary for governor and has been on the campaign trail for over a year. O’Neill has name recognition after running for attorney general in 2020, when he narrowly lost to Democrat Josh Stein, who is now his party’s candidate for governor.

The lieutenant governor has limited duties, such as presiding over state Senate debate and holding membership on state education and community college boards.

The auditor’s runoff features first-place primary finisher Jack Clark and Dave Boliek. The winner will take on Democratic State Auditor Jessica Holmes, who was appointed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper following Beth Wood’s resignation last year.

Clark is a certified public accountant who has worked in auditing in the private sector before becoming a General Assembly staff employee on budget matters, according to his campaign’s website. Boliek is an attorney and former chairman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill trustee board.

The lieutenant governor and state auditor are part of the Council of State, composed of the 10 executive branch officials who are elected statewide.

The last time Council of State races went to primary runoffs was 2012, when two GOP contenders for lieutenant governor received a total of 150,000 votes. In the first primary that led to the runoff, the candidates received a total of 769,000 votes.



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