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Runoff Between Two Political Newcomers Decides GOP Nod In NC11

Voters in western North Carolina are choosing the Republican nominee for a congressional seat held by Mark Meadows, before he became President Donald Trump's chief of staff.

Lynda Bennett and Madison Cawthorn are on Tuesday's ballot in the 11th Congressional District runoff. They were the top two vote-getters in a 12-candidate primary in March. The two candidates finished first and second in the primary, but neither garnered the 30% of the vote needed to avoid Tuesday’s runoff.

Polls opened at 6:30 a.m. and will close at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Bennett, a Maggie Valley businesswoman, received Trump's endorsement this month. Meadows announced in December he wouldn't seek reelection and backed Bennett. He became chief of staff three months ago.

Cawthorn, a Henderson County real estate investor, turns 25 — the constitutional minimum for the House — in August.

Tuesday's winner faces Democrat Moe Davis in November. Davis received nearly 50% of the vote in March’s Democratic primary.

The district lines for the 11th are different for 2020 after a court ruled them redrawn due to “extreme partisan” gerrymandering by state Republicans. All of the westernmost counties of North Carolina are in the 11th for 2020.

The runoff is open to registered Republicans, as well as those registered unaffiliated voters who cast ballots in the first GOP primary or not at all. Mail-in absentee balloting has been robust for the runoff.

Social distancing will be enforced at polling places Tuesday. The North Carolina State Board of Elections outlined the following precautions it will take for the runoff:

• Masks available for all poll workers and voters who do not bring their own.

• Single-use pens for voters to mark their ballots.

• Single-use cotton swabs for voters using touchscreen voting machines.

• Enforced social distancing for all poll workers and voters, including markings or barriers to prevent voters in line from standing too close together.

• Hand sanitizer for voters and poll workers.

• Face shields and gloves for poll workers.

• Protective barriers between poll workers and voters at check-in tables.

• Special sanitation kits at each precinct to ensure poll worker protection and clean tables, voting booths and voting machines throughout the voting process.

• Thorough cleaning of voting sites before and after the election.

To see more, visit BPR News.

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Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.
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