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2022 North Carolina Primary: Breaking down U.S. House races

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WUNC Graphic
Elizabeth Baier

WUNC has all the coverage you need this election season. Be sure to check out our Races To Watch stories for everything you need to know about candidates in statewide, congressional, legislative and municipal elections. Subscribe to WUNC's Politics Podcast, and follow reporters Rusty Jacobs and Jeff Tiberii on Twitter.

North Carolina gained a House seat due to population growth, and will have a 14th representative in the next Congress for the first time ever.

Each Congressional district — if you were wondering — includes about 750,000 North Carolinians.

Across the country, about 30 House Democrats are not seeking re-election. Among them are longtime North Carolina Reps. G.K. Butterfield and David Price. In the first midterm election of Joe Biden’s presidential tenure, Republicans are hoping to seize the opportunity, aiming to retake the majority in the chamber, something the party hasn’t had since 2018.

Perhaps the four most notable U.S. House primaries in North Carolina are in the First, Fourth, Eleventh, Thirteenth and Fourteenth districts. Let’s take a closer look at those races.

1st District

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WUNC Composite
Leading the GOP field in fundraising in the 1st District is Sandy Roberson (left). Sandy Smith (right) is also viewed as a top competitor.
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WUNC Composite
Don Davis (left), a current state Senator from Pitt County, and Erica Smith (right), a former state Senator who ran for U.S. Senate in 2020, are seen as the leaders in the Democratic primary for the First District.

Longtime Democratic Congressmen G.K. Butterfield is retiring, leaving an enticing and open seat.

This district, which leans left — and has been redrawn three times since the fall of 2021 — has eight Republican candidates.

Leading the GOP field in fundraising is Sandy Roberson, the Mayor of Rocky Mount. The candidate Butterfield beat in 2020, Sandy Smith — an East Carolina University graduate — is also viewed as a top competitor and has received high-profile endorsements from the far right side of the party, such as General Michael Flynn, Joe Apario, Roger Stone and Madison Cawthorn.

The district encompasses a wide swath of northeastern North Carolina. It borders Virginia, grazes the Inner Banks, and includes towns like Rocky Mount and Greenville. It’s about 42% Black and 10% Hispanic. Butterfield has held the seat for 17 years and previously chaired the Congressional Black Caucus.

On the Democratic side, four candidates are seeking the nomination. Among them are Don Davis, a current state Senator from Pitt County, and Erica Smith, a former state senator who ran for U.S. Senate in 2020. Smith was initially among the field of Democrats running for Richard Burr’s U.S. Senate seat in 2022, but switched gears to mount a congressional campaign.

A few days before early voting began, Butterfield endorsed Davis to be his successor, saying Davis has the “legislative experience and is prepared to fight for the Democratic agenda.” Davis is a former Air Force officer and was once the mayor of Snow Hill. In response to Butterfield’s endorsement, Smith’s campaign manager Morris Katz said that Davis was “out of touch with the Democratic party.”

4th District

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WUNC Composite
From left to right, the candidates in the Democratic Primary for the 4th District: Valerie Foushee, Clay Aiken and Nida Allam.

Similar to the 1st, the story of this race begins with a longtime retiring representative. David Price, a Democrat, represented the 4th District from 1987 to 1995, and every year since 1997. He announced last October that he would not seek re-election in 2022. This is the first time since 1972 that the race for this seat does not include an incumbent.

This competition for this firmly blue constituency, which is anchored by Durham, includes a Black woman in State Senator Valerie Foushee, an openly gay man in former American Idol contestant Clay Aiken, and County Commissioner Nida Allam — the first Muslim woman to ever hold office in the state.

Aiken previously ran for Congress in North Carolina’s 2nd District in 2014, winning the primary but losing in the general. Allam, who worked on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Presidential campaign, has touted endorsements from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). As of March 31, Allam led the field in fundraising.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face one of two Republican candidates: Courtney Geels or Robert Thomas.

11th District

Madison Cawthorn
Andrew Harnik
Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., arrives at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, May 14, 2021.

The mountains of North Carolina have long maintained something of an independent streak in the world of politics. Freshman Congressman Madison Cawthorn has moved that to a degree of belligerent overdrive during his less than two years on Capitol Hill. Now with a national notoriety, Cawthorn faces multiple challengers from within his own party.

There is Michelle Woodhouse, a grassroots organizer and the cousin of former state GOP chairman Dallas Woodhouse. And there is Chuck Edwards, a staunchly conservative state senator from Buncombe County. Telling as well, is that some of the state’s more prominent establishment Republicans — like Thom Tillis, Phil Berger and Tim Moore — have backed Edwards in an effort to oust Cawthorn.

On the Democratic side, Jasmine Beach-Ferrara leads a field of six candidates in fundraising, reporting more than $1.4 million in receipts as of March 31. The Asheville resident is a two-time Ivy League graduate, a Buncombe County Commissioner, a minister, a mother and openly gay. She calls Cawthorn an “insurrectionist” in the first sentence of the message on her campaign website.

13th District

The most competitive U.S. House race is expected in the 13th District, where there is no incumbent. The seat currently belongs to Ted Budd, who is running for U.S. Senate instead of seeking re-election.

This Triangle centric seat — which includes the southern half of Wake, all of Johnston, and portions of Harnett and Wayne Counties — is considered to have an ever-so-slight Republican lean and has attracted more than a dozen candidates.

One leading Republican, Kelly Daughtry, has given herself a seven-figure campaign loan and is running TV ads. Another candidate, Bo Hines, is modeling himself after Madison Cawthorn. And a third, DeVan Barbour, is hoping home-grown Johnston County support can propel him to the top.

Leading the race on the left is Wiley Nickel — a current state senator, a criminal defense attorney, and a former staffer in the Obama White House. Former state senator Sam Searcy is also a candidate.

14th District

Jeff Jackson is looking to fill an open U.S. Senate being vacated by Republican Sen. Richard Burr.
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Jeff Jackson is a Charlotte-area state senator.

This is North Carolina’s newest district, thanks to a lengthy and heated process in redrawing the state’s congressional maps.

The 14th District is in Mecklenburg County and includes much of Charlotte, Gastonia, Mount Holly and Belmont. The favorite to win the race is Jeff Jackson, a Democrat and state senator. Jackson began this election cycle initially running for the U.S. Senate. According to campaign filing reports, he has much more cash on-hand than his competitors in this race, which include Republicans Pat Harrigan and Jonathan Simpson, and Democrat Ramin Mammadov.

Another reason why Jackson is viewed as the favorite is that this new district is expected to lean to the left — 57% of the voters in the district’s precincts voted for Joe Biden in 2020.

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