North Carolina Primaries: Republicans Narrow Their Fields

by Jessica Taylor May 9, 2012 · 12:59 PM EDT

Congressional races in the Tar Heel State were already going to be uphill for Democrats, but in a handful of races, they’re going to have to wait until July 17 to know exactly which Republican they’re up against. 

The GOP primaries in the 8th District to take on Rep. Larry Kissell (D) and in the 11th District to succeed retiring Rep. Heath Shuler (D) are headed to runoffs, while national Republicans in the 7th District appear to have narrowly gotten their choice to face-off against Rep. Mike McIntyre (D).

In the 7th District, state Sen. David Rouzer narrowly edged out 2010 nominee Ilario Pantano, 48 percent to 45 percent, in the closest race of the night in North Carolina. Rouzer, a former tobacco lobbyist, was buoyed by a strong showing from his suburban Raleigh-base that allowed him to compensate for Pantano’s name identification advantage and Wilmington base.

Rouzer was viewed as the underdog heading into Tuesday’s vote but was seen as the stronger general election nominee over Pantano, who didn’t impress with his eight-point loss to McIntyre in 2010 and whose fundraising this cycle had been incredibly anemic. McIntyre still has an imposing cash advantage with a war chest of over $780,000, but Rouzer now has time to start building his challenge in the district that gave John McCain 57 percent in 2008 and President Bush over 61 percent four years earlier. We currently rate this race Lean Republican.

In the 8th District, former Capitol Hill aide Richard Hudson will now go head to head with dentist Scott Keadle in the July runoff for the chance to take on Kissell in a district that gave McCain over 57 percent.

Hudson, the longtime district director for now-state party chairman Robin Hayes and chief of staff to several other GOP members, topped the five-candidate field with 32 percent of the vote to Keadle’s 22 percent. Both were helped by outside groups in the closing days of the campaign, with Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Young Guns PAC putting in over $70,000 for Hudson, while the Club for Growth spent over $300,000 on Keadle’s behalf. Hudson has long been considered the favorite in the race, but Keadle benefited from the Club’s late spending and could continue to narrow the gap over the next two months. We rate this race as Republican Favored.

Wealthy businessman Mark Meadows narrowly missed avoiding a runoff in the 11th District, taking 38 percent of the vote, followed by businessman Vance Patterson’s 22 percent in the eight candidate field. Meadows will be the favorite come July, but either Republican is expected to defeat Shuler’s former chief of staff Hayden Rogers, who won his own Democratic primary on Tuesday. Rogers may have been the strongest nominee Democrats could have landed, but it’s unlikely to be enough in this western North Carolina district that gave McCain over 58 percent. We rate this race as Republican Favored.

Democrats essentially ceded the 13th District to Republicans, after Democratic Rep. Brad Miller chose to retire. With his primary win, former U.S. Attorney George Holding is headed for Congress, beating Wake County Commissioner Paul Coble, 44 percent to 34 percent. Holding was buoyed by a super PAC run by his family and friends that poured over half a million in TV ads blistering Coble, who was initially seen by many as the frontrunner but whose fundraising and support never materialized.

In the open 9th District race to succeed retiring Rep. Sue Myrick, the July runoff, as expected, will come down to wealthy former state Sen. Robert Pittenger and former Mecklenberg County Sheriff Jim Pendergraph. In the crowded 11-candidate field, Pittenger took 33 percent of the vote to Pendergraph’s 25 percent. Whoever wins the July runoff will be a congressman next year.