N.C. starts 2nd primary contest

Published 9:15 pm Saturday, June 30, 2012

RALEIGH — Most North Carolina voters may be unaware, but votes are already being cast in elections to decide the November lineups competing for 15 statewide, congressional and legislative seats.
Call it the North Carolina primary, take two.
The second primary will decide the winners of Republican or Democratic contests that weren’t concluded by last month’s primary. Voters go back to the polls July 17 to complete the state’s primary election, but early voting began Thursday and continues until July 14.
All but three of the runoff races involve Republicans. Voters who cast ballots in last month’s Republican and Democratic primaries can vote only in the same party’s primary this time. Unaffiliated voters who cast a non-partisan ballot cannot vote in the second primary.
Setting aside the Charlotte metro area and Asheville, where there are three competitive Republican primaries with a shot at a congressional seat at stake, many precincts will struggle to get to 10 percent turnout, said state elections board executive director Gary Bartlett.
“In a very non-active area, it would be as low as 2 1/2 percent and never exceed 8 percent” of registered voters, Bartlett said. “In very active communities you could see 20 or 25 percent. I’m being very generous when I go up to 25 percent.”
The highest-profile races involve Republicans in Charlotte and its suburbs choosing between Jim Pendergraph and Robert Pittenger for the 9th Congressional District; Scott Keadle and Richard Hudson in the 8th Congressional District north and west of Charlotte; and Vance Patterson against Mark Meadows in the 11th District in Asheville and the rest of the state’s west.
Pittenger, a former state senator, and Pendergraph, a Mecklenburg County commissioner and former sheriff, have spiced their campaign with a flurry of negative radio ads and mailers that some local Republicans complain has been a turnoff. The district is overwhelmingly Republican and has been in the party’s hands since 1963. The winner could expect good odds to stay in Congress for years. U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick of Charlotte is retiring after holding the seat for 18 years.
The 11th District race between Meadows and Patterson has veered into the candidates raising doubts about President Barack Obama’s American birth, while also telling the Asheville Citizen-Times they believe Obama was born in the United States. U.S. birth is a constitutional requirement to hold the presidency. The White House published Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate on its website last year.
The winner of the GOP runoff faces Hayden Rogers, who was a top aide to U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, a conservative Blue Dog Democrat who has held the seat since 2007. Shuler is retiring after last year’s redistricting made the district more favorable to Republicans.
Headlining the runoffs for statewide office is the GOP lieutenant governor race between Tony Gurley and Dan Forest, Myrick’s son.
Other GOP races include: Mike Causey versus Richard Morgan for state insurance commissioner; Kenn Gardner against Ed Goodwin for secretary of state; and Richard Alexander versus John Tedesco for superintendent of public instruction.
The only stateside Democratic runoff is for labor commissioner between Marlowe Foster and John Brooks.

Because voter turnout is expected to be so low for the second primary, everyone casting will have an outsized impact on choosing their party’s candidates for November, Bartlett said.

“Participation by those eligible is extremely important because whenever you have a low turnout you usually have some surprises,” he said.