North Carolina candidate filing ends; 26 running for US Senate seat

Published 8:33 am Saturday, March 5, 2022

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By Gary D. Robertson, Associated Press

North Carolina candidate filing wrapped up Friday for this year’s party primaries, the apparent completion of a period split into two intervals by redistricting litigation.

The State Board of Elections and election offices in all 100 counties accepted the last paperwork from political hopefuls at noon.

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Voters this fall will choose a successor to retiring U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, as well as elect the state’s 14 U.S. House members, all 170 members of the General Assembly, justices and judges and scores of local positions. Candidates who face no opposition in the May 17 primary automatically advance to the Nov. 8 general election.

Twenty-six people signed up to run for Burr’s seat. The 14 Republican candidates include U.S. Rep. Ted Budd; former Gov. Pat McCrory; former Rep. Mark Walker; and combat veteran Marjorie Eastman. Democratic nomination front-runner Cheri Beasley, the former state Supreme Court chief justice, heads a list of 11 Democrats.

Filing restarted Feb. 24, 2 1/2 months after the state Supreme Court suspended it so that redistricting litigation could go to trial. The justices also delayed the primary from March 8.

By the time filing resumed, North Carolina’s congressional district lines had been redrawn twice and General Assembly boundaries once. It’s possible the congressional map could be altered again — Republicans asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block elections using the current version.

Some who had filed in December had to withdraw in recent days because they no longer lived in the legislative district they had sought to serve in, and some chose to run elsewhere. There is no such residency requirement for a congressional seat, but many incumbents and other hopefuls shifted their candidacies.

They included first-term GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who filed this week to run in the far-western 11th District. In December, he filed to run in the 13th District, which has now moved 150 miles (241 kilometers) east of where it had been situated.

Cawthorn, who faces seven other Republican challengers, has been embroiled in an effort by voters to disqualify him as a congressional candidate. But a federal judge on Friday refused to let the challenges continue.

In all, at least one Democrat and one Republican is running in each of the 14 U.S. House seats, including 11 of the 13 incumbents. Democratic Reps. G.K. Butterfield in the 1st District and David Price in the 4th District are retiring. North Carolina receives a 14th seat next year because of population growth.

The Democratic-leaning 1st District will feature a Democratic primary that includes current state Sen. Don Davis and former Sen. Erica Smith.

Former “American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken filed to run this week in the heavily Democratic 4th District, joining seven other candidates in the party primary. Aiken had announced his candidacy in January for the Triangle-area seat being vacated by Price. Aiken ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2014.

An open 13th District seat, considered the only toss-up district, attracted 13 candidates, including state Sen. Wiley Nickel and former Sen. Sam Searcy on the Democratic side and former U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Republican. The district stretches from southern Wake County into all or portions of three fast-growing counties.

Four candidates filed for the open 14th District seat, which includes half of Mecklenburg County’s population and most of Gaston County. The high-profile candidate for the Democratic-leaning seat is state Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte, who withdrew from the U.S. Senate race in December.

For the General Assembly, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger were uncontested for their legislative seats. They’re the November winners barring write-in or unaffiliated candidacies.

Notable legislative primaries include the northwestern 47th Senate District, where top budget writer Sen. Ralph Hise of Mitchell County and education committee co-chair Deanna Ballard of Watauga County are competing for the GOP nomination. Three other pairs of Republican incumbents — two House and one Senate — are running against each other in primaries. There are no Democratic candidates in these four races.

In North Carolina’s largest city, Charlotte, former Mayor Patrick Cannon filed papers on Friday to run for an at-large city council seat, eight years after he resigned as mayor and pleaded guilty to taking about $50,000 in bribes from federal undercover officers. The Democrat served nearly half of a 44-month prison sentence.

In a statement released to news outlets, Cannon said he still takes responsibility for his actions and continues to seek forgiveness from the community.

“A chance for redemption is all I can ask for and pray that you might provide it,” he said.