Several incumbents lose state legislative primaries

RALEIGH — Several state legislators won’t be returning to the North Carolina General Assembly next January after primary losses, while former lawmakers had mixed results in trying to get back to the House or Senate.

Six incumbents — four Republicans and two Democrats — lost in Tuesday’s primaries for seats in their current chamber. Four of those sitting Republicans ran against fellow GOP incumbents who lived in the same district due to redistricting changes.

Two Senate Democrats — Sens. Kirk deViere and Ernestine Bazemore — and Republican Rep. Pat Hurley — also lost primaries for their seats.

In addition, two current House members — Democrat Raymond Smith and Republican Lee Zachary — failed to win Senate primaries. Each attempted to make the jump to the Senate after facing similar “double-bunkings” with House colleagues in their districts because of remapped boundaries.

Double-bunking, when two incumbents end up in the same district, occurred in two House and two Senate races this year as a result of redistricting.

In the 1st state Senate seat, Norman Sanderson beat Bob Steinburg by a 56% to 44% margin. Sanderson’s advantage came from his former district’s counties of Carteret and Pamlico.

The other much-anticipated race was that of the Senate District 47 seat. The race was remarkably close throughout the night with a few lead changes, but ultimately Ralph Hise narrowly edged out Deanna Ballard in the western NC seat. Hise won 6 of the 9 counties including Caldwell, which was the difference maker in the race.

On the House side, the double-bunked races included Reps. Jamie Boles and Ben Moss vying for House District 52. Moss came away with the win, taking in over 53% of the vote. Moss’ win means he will assume the seat this fall since there is no Democratic challenger.

The number of Republicans running unopposed in November for House seats dwarfs that of Democrats by a count of 20 to four. In the Senate, eight Republicans are running unopposed versus just one Democrat.

Kirk DeViere lost to Fayetteville City Council member Val Applewhite in a three-way race for the 19th Senate District. Applewhite benefitted from an endorsement by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. The governor and other Democrats had been unhappy with deViere for siding at times with Senate Republicans on key legislation, including the 2021 state budget.

Bazemore, a first-term senator from Bertie County, lost to Valerie Jordan of Warren County in a 3rd Senate District primary. The winner will take on Dare County Republican Bobby Hanig, a current House member, in November.

Hurley, an eight-term House member, lost to Randolph County school board member Brian Biggs in the 70th District Republican primary.

Sitting legislators who won contested primaries for seats in the opposite chamber included three Democrats: Reps. Graig Meyer of Orange County and Kandie Smith of Pitt County and Sen. Sarah Crawford of Wake County. Meyer and Smith won Senate primaries, while Crawford won a House primary.

But Zachary, from Yadkin County, finished third in a four-candidate race for a northwestern Senate seat. 

Former state legislators who advanced in legislative primaries for their old chamber include ex-Sen. Buck Newton, a Wilson County Republican; former GOP Rep. Stephen Ross of Alamance County; and former Democratic Reps. Elmer Floyd of Cumberland County and Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg County. Newton will take on Fitch in November. And former Sen. Wesley Meredith of Cumberland County, who won a Republican primary on Tuesday, takes on Applewhite in November.

Newton had in the past represented a Wilson County-centric Senate district before running for Attorney General in 2016. He will face Democratic state Sen. Toby Fitch this fall. Fitch dispatched Rep. Raymond Smith, who elected to challenge him after being double-bunked with House Majority Leader John Bell (R-Wayne) in his Republican-leaning seat.

Ex-lawmakers who lost Tuesday primaries include former Sens. Eddie Gallimore and Tony Moore and Rep. Scott Stone, all of whom are Republicans. Shirley Randleman, a former House and Senate member, failed to win a Senate primary that also featured Zachary.

Benton Sawrey easily won the race for the new Johnston County Senate seat over Jill Homan and Matt Ansley. The only Democrat registered to run for that seat in November is Gettys Cohen Jr.

Republican Brian Echevarria won the nomination for the House District 73 seat in Cabarrus County after winning his three-way primary race with over 57% of the vote. Earlier this year, Echevarria gained recognition following a speech in front of the Cabarrus County School Board that went viral nationwide.

Wake County freshman Rep. Erin Pare will be facing failed Holly Springs mayoral candidate Democrat Christine Kelly for the redrawn District 37 seat. 

Former Sen. Buck Newton is one step closer to the General Assembly. 

A.P. Dillon of the North State Journal contributed to this report.

By Associated Press

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