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With Primary Concession, Holley Wins Democratic Lt Gov Nod

File photo of North Carolina State Representative Yvonne Lewis Holley at her home in Raleigh, N.C.
Ben McKeown
File photo of North Carolina State Representative Yvonne Lewis Holley at her home in Raleigh, N.C.

North Carolina voters are poised to make history in November electing an African American as lieutenant governor for the first time now that a legislator won the Democratic nomination.State Rep. Yvonne Holley of Raleigh got the most votes in last week's party primary for the No. 2 executive branch job, but fell short of receiving more than 30% to win outright.

But with runner-up Sen. Terry Van Duyn of Asheville announcing late Tuesday she won't seek a mid-May runoff, Holley wins the nomination after receiving 26% in the six-candidate race.

The other candidate in the general election also is black: Republican nominee Mark Robinson of Greensboro, who rose to prominence in conservative circles following a viral gun rights speech he gave, won  the nine-candidate GOP primary.

While unaffiliated candidates can still get on the ballot with enough signatures, that's extremely unlikely to occur. Current Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is running for governor.

Only one black politician has ever been elected to a Council of State office in North Carolina history: State Auditor Ralph Campbell Jr., a Democrat who was elected in 1992 and served for 12 years. The Council of State is composed of the governor, lieutenant governor and eight other statewide offices. Another African American candidate, Jessica Holmes, is this year's Democratic nominee for state labor commissioner.

Van Duyn, who received 20% of the primary vote, had received pressure from Holley, other lieutenant governor candidates, as well as some party leaders, to concede the race. A second primary election would have required more fundraising and spending while Robinson built a fall campaign war chest.

"We all ran races based upon our shared value of moving North Carolina in a better direction," Van Duyn said in a concession statement. "I look forward to doing everything I can to elect Democrats up and down the ticket in 2020 and that includes supporting Rep. Holley as our next lieutenant governor."

Holley, 68, has served in the state House since 2013. Like Robinson, Holley fell behind other rivals in fundraising, especially Van Duyn. But Holley, a former state employee and daughter of a trailblazing local TV personality, still finished atop the vote totals March 3.

Following the concession, Holley praised Van Duyn as a "great Democratic leader in the Senate. We can always count on her to support Medicaid expansion, protect women's rights and invest in public education."

Van Duyn's decision means only one sizable runoff election is likely to occur May 12. In the far-western 11th Congressional District primary, second-place candidate Madison Cawthorn said he planned to seek a runoff against primary leader Lynda Bennett. The ultimate winner will take on Democrat Moe Davis and Green and Libertarian party candidates in November. Current 11th District GOP Rep. Mark Meadows decided not to seek reelection and will be President Donald Trump's next chief of staff.

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