Mar 4, 2024 - News

Intriguing races to watch on North Carolina's primary election night

Illustration of a row of voting booths casting long shadows, the side of the booth reads "VOTE" with a checkmark as the V.

Illustration: Victoria Ellis/Axios

Several competitive races in Tuesday's primary elections could make waves in North Carolina politics.

  • Here are six that we're watching.

1. Who will emerge from the gubernatorial primaries

State of play: Both the Republican and Democratic primaries for governor are filled with high-profile candidates that have attracted large amounts of money.

  • In the Democratic primary, state Attorney General Josh Stein is facing off against former state Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan.
  • On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson has raised the most money but faces competition from State Treasurer Dale Folwell, former state Sen. Andy Wells, Salisbury lawyer Bill Graham and retired health care executive Jesse Thomas.

What we're watching: How Stein performs with Black voters.

The intrigue: Governor Roy Cooper's veto has been one of the few things in the way of Republican legislative agendas since he came to office in 2016.

  • That veto power will make it one of the most watched races in the country.

2. The Democratic contest for the state's top attorney

State of play: Congressman Dan Bishop is the only Republican AG candidate. Three Democrats will be on Tuesday's primary ballot:

  • Fellow Charlotte-area Congressman Jeff Jackson, who's famous on TikTok for explaining what happens in Washington in layman's terms. He's a former prosecutor who also served in the U.S. Army and as a state senator.
  • Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry.
  • Tim Dunn, Fayetteville attorney who served in the Marines for over three decades.

The intrigue: So far, Jackson has far outspent opponent Deberry, but her campaign received a recent boost from a mysterious group based in Washington, D.C., called "And Justice For All PAC," per WUNC.

Fun fact: The road to the N.C. governor's mansion sometimes runs through the attorney general's office.

  • Cooper and Mike Easley both served as state attorney general before being elected governor of North Carolina.

3. A controversial comeback in the 8th Congressional District

John Bradford and Mark Harris are seen as the frontrunners in this congressional district that touches Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and Robeson counties.

State of play: With Bishop running for state attorney general, this race is wide open. Six Republicans are vying for the role.

Democrat Justin Dues will run against the primary winner in this heavily Republican district.

4. Who will become the state's top banker

The state treasurer oversees billions in state pension funds, works with counties to administer bonds and runs health care plans for state employees.

In the Democratic primary, two Charlotteans are running against each other:

Three Republicans are seeking the nomination:

  • A. J. Daoud is a former North Carolina GOP District chairman and state senate and secretary of state candidate.
  • Rachel Johnson is a businesswoman who runs a family-owned business on a farm in Davie County, per the N&O.
  • Brad Briner, a member of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, told the N&O he wants to improve the performance of the state pension plan.

5. One swingy congressional district

Because new maps were drawn to heavily favor Republicans, only one of the state's 14 congressional districts is expected to be competitive in the fall, ABC News reported.

The intrigue: The 1st District, which spans Northeastern North Carolina, has a large percentage of Black voters but is also very rural. It is considered a toss-up race by the Cook Political Report after its redrawing.

  • Democrats have held this seat for more than a century, and it's elected a Black representative for decades.

State of play: The incumbent is Don Davis, who won the seat for the first time in 2022.

  • In the Republican primary, Sandy Smith (who lost to Davis in 2022) faces off against Laurie Buckhout, an Army veteran who moved to the area in 2021, The Assembly reported.

6. A tough primary challenge in Durham

After unsuccessfully running for Durham mayor, longtime state Sen. Mike Woodard could face a tight race to keep his seat in the legislature.

State of play: Sophia Chitlik Abram is challenging Woodard, saying he has voted too often with Republicans, Indy Week reported.

Why it matters: In deeply blue Durham, the winner of this primary will more than likely win the general election in November.

What's next: Primary election day is March 5. Check back in with Axios Tuesday night for results.


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