North Carolina: Republicans Prepare for Big November

by Jessica Taylor July 18, 2012 · 12:14 AM EDT

Republicans got their top picks in two North Carolina congressional runoffs Tuesday, furthering the likelihood they will flip several seats in the Tar Heel State this fall.

In the 8th District runoff, former Capitol Hill aide Richard Hudson easily defeated former Iredell County Commissioner Scott Keadle, 64 percent to 36 percent, and will face Rep. Larry Kissell (D) in November in a district that favors Republicans.

The runoff between Hudson and Keadle had become a proxy war between the GOP establishment and the party’s more conservative wing in the stretch since the May primary. Hudson, a former top aide to several House members including now-state party Chairman Robin Hayes, whom Kissell defeated in 2006, had the backing of the YG Action Fund and the American Action Network, both closely tied to House leadership.

Meanwhile, Keadle had picked up the strong endorsement of the Club for Growth who helped him get into the runoff amid a multi-candidate field. Hudson benefited from over $750,000 in outside spending, while the Club spent over $400,000 to help Keadle.

Kissell starts at a disadvantage in the re-drawn district, which got significantly more Republican and would have given John McCain over 57 percent of the vote in 2008. We currently rate this race as Republican Favored.

In the western 11th District, wealthy businessman Mark Meadows also easily dispatched a challenge from Vance Patterson after only narrowly avoiding an outright win in May. Meadows is heavily favored in this open seat contest created by Rep. Heath Shuler’s (D) retirement.

Meadows will now face Democrat Hayden Rogers, Shuler’s chief of staff, in the general election. We currently rate this race as Republican Favored.

In the 9th District contest to succeed the retiring Rep. Sue Myrick (R), former state Rep. Robert Pittenger (R) edged past former Mecklenberg County Sheriff Jim Pendergraph, who had been endorsed by Myrick. Pittenger partially self-funded his race and easily outspent Pendergraph, and is likely the district’s next congressman in this solidly GOP seat.

After failing to knock off Kissell and Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) in previous cycles, Republicans improved their fortunes in the Tar Heel state by controlling the redistricting process. They made both Democratic incumbents more vulnerable and forced Shuler and Rep. Brad Miller (D) into retirement. Miller’s seat is assured to slip to GOP hands, and McIntyre also starts at a disadvantage in his race against state Sen. David Rouzer (R), though he’s still in a slightly better position than Kissell.

Still, Democratic problems in North Carolina, where they could lose as many as four seats, complicate Democratic calculations to win the 25 seats they need to regain the majority.