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RESULTS: Races For NC Governor & Senate Set, Congressional Incumbents Win Primaries

Updated 10 p.m.

Three North Carolina members of Congress with challengers from their own party this year all won primaries on Tuesday.

Rep. David Price defeated Daniel Lockwood in the Democratic Party’s 4th Congressional District primary and will face Tuesday’s Republican primary winner. Price first went to Congress in 1987 and has served continuously except for two years in the mid-1990s.

Rep. Patrick McHenry won his Republican primary in the 10th District over David L. Johnson and Ralf Walters and will face Democrat David Parker in the fall. McHenry was first elected to Congress in 2004, rising to the post of chief deputy whip when Republicans recently held the U.S. House majority.

Democratic Rep. Alma Adams defeated Keith E. Credle in her 12th District primary and will take on Republican Bill Brewster in the fall. Adams is seeking her fourth full term in Congress. She had been in the state House for 20 years before her 2014 congressional election.

Updated 8:55 p.m.

Former Democratic state lawmaker Cal Cunningham has advanced to a general election challenge against GOP Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

Cunningham was the candidate favored in the primary by his party's leaders in the U.S. Senate. He's a former state senator and Iraq War veteran.

Cunningham defeated state Sen. Erica Smith and three other Democrats. Smith was trying to become the first African American female senator ever elected from the South.

Tillis' victory over three lesser-known Republican rivals came despite the initial skepticism of party activists who once questioned his loyalty to President Donald Trump.

Updated 8:44 p.m.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina has won his party's primary and will face Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest in the November general election as he seeks a second term.

It's a race that Forest has long been preparing for. Cooper enters that matchup flush with cash and hoping his reelection could help Democrats take back one or both General Assembly chambers.

Cooper defeated primary challenger Ernest Reeves, who ran a low-key campaign and reported raising little money. Forest beat state Rep. Holly Grange, benefiting from a statewide campaign network that he began forming after his first lieutenant governor's victory in 2012. He was reelected in 2016.

Updated 8:15 p.m.

North Carolina voters were deciding on Super Tuesday which Democrat they believe can unseat Sen. Thom Tillis and whether the current GOP lieutenant governor is the one best suited to oust Gov. Roy Cooper in the fall.Dozens of nominations for federal, state government and legislative seats appear on primary ballots below the high-profile choices for president that brought massive candidate operations and advertising to the state in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, at the top of the ticket, Joe Biden won the state's Democratic presidential primary, and President Donald Trump won on the Republican side.

Primary results should also set the fall election lineups for seats currently held by Cooper and Tillis. Both had their own primaries but were expected to win, with Tillis facing three GOP rivals little known statewide. Cooper faced Ernest Reeves, who has run unsuccessfully for several elected positions.

Voters also winnowed the fields for lieutenant governor, schools superintendent and other Council of State positions. Democratic primary voters in two congressional districts now favoring the party after a recent redistricting were picking nominees who stood a strong chance to reach Capitol Hill next year.

Unaffiliated voters, who make up one-third of the state's electorate, are the primary wild cards, since they can participate in the Democratic or Republican primaries. About 778,000 people cast ballots during the early in-person voting period that ended Saturday. Overall primary voting could reach three times that number if it follows previous presidential years.

All but two of North Carolina's nearly 2,700 polling places closed at 7:30 p.m. State election officials allowed only one site in Bertie County to extend its closing time by 30 minutes due to a printer installation issue, while another in Forsyth County stayed open 40 minutes longer because election workers briefly ran out of a version of a Democratic ballot.

For the Senate, five Democrats sought to challenge Tillis, led by former state legislator Cal Cunningham and current state Sen. Erica Smith. Cunningham, an Iraq War veteran and 2010 U.S. Senate candidate, was the leading fundraiser in the primary. He was endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and benefited from more than $9 million in outside spending from two super PACs.

Unaffiliated voter Bob De Andrade, 64, of Durham, said he voted Tuesday for Cunningham because he believes he would stand up to Donald Trump or whoever is president.

"I thought he was offering the change I'd like to see," said De Andrade, a tour bus driver. "He's not accepting the status quo of allowing the president to run roughshod over the institutions."

Some of the super PAC ads sought to counter pro-Smith commercials paid for by an unusual source: a group linked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The GOP effort was designed to weaken Cunningham among progressive voters by pointing out he didn't support the Green New Deal or Medicaid for All. The campaign of Smith, who backs those policies, still blasted the interference, adding that black women "are not chess pawns for D.C. committees." Smith would become the first African American female senator from the South if elected.

"My impression is that she's a very progressive candidate, and I like that," statistician Marie Coffin, 57, of Cary, said after voting for Smith.

Meanwhile, Tillis was ultimately spared from an expensive race against well-funded challengers who either didn't run or pulled out. Questions about Tillis' loyalty to President Donald Trump by hardline Republicans have subsided in recent months, particularly during Trump's impeachment.

Tillis "had made some stumbles" previously when it came to his allegiance to Trump, retired Highway Patrol leader Sidney Cummings, 77, said after voting in Cary, but "he's better than a Democrat."

In the race for governor, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest had the fundraising and organizational advantages over state Rep. Holly Grange in the Republican primary. While Forest won statewide elections for lieutenant governor in 2012 and 2016, Grange questioned his electability in November against Cooper, who had a whopping $9.5 million in his campaign coffers a few weeks ago. Forest had $750,000.

Forest, a favorite of social conservatives who strongly supported the state's 2016 divisive "bathroom bill," has used his position to promote broadband access and financial literacy for K-12 students among other policies. Grange said Forest was divisive.

For Congress, voters are picking nominees for the Piedmont-area 2nd and 6th Districts and far-western 11th District, where each Republican chose not to seek reelection. Reps. George Holding of Raleigh and Mark Walker of Greensboro cited the November redrawing of the state's congressional map after a court ruling for their decisions.

Both districts became more Democratic, so the winner among the five Democrats in the 6th District and four Democrats in the 2nd District will be strong favorites in the fall. In the still Republican-leaning 11th District, where GOP Rep. Mark Meadows decided against running again, 12 Republicans and five Democrats were on Tuesday's primary ballots. May runoffs are possible if the top vote-getter fails to exceed a 30% threshhold.

Runoffs are also possible for lieutenant governor, where nine Republicans and six Democrats are seeking to succeed Forest. One is GOP Superintentendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson.

One or both major parties held primaries for the other seven positions on the Council of State, composed of statewide executive department leaders.

About two dozen General Assembly incumbents also faced primary rivals on Tuesday. All 170 House and Senate seats will be on November ballots. Republicans currently hold slight seat advantages in either chamber.

Associated Press writer Jonathan Drew in Durham, North Carolina, contributed to this report.

Stories, features and more by WUNC News Staff. Also, features and commentary not by any one reporter.
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Elizabeth “Liz” Baier is WUNC’s Digital News Editor. She's a first-generation Colombian-American fluent in Spanish. She has two decades of experience than span print, audio, and digital reporting and editing.
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