2024 Voting | North Carolina congressional runoff showcases Trump’s influence in GOP politics

RALEIGH, N.C. — A Republican primary runoff for a North Carolina congressional district on Tuesday could demonstrate yet again the strong influence former President Donald Trump has on GOP politics across the country.

Voters will choose between attorneys Kelly Daughtry and Brad Knott in the runoff for the reconfigured 13th Congressional District. Daughtry finished first, and Knott second, in the March 5 primary. GOP candidates for the statewide offices of lieutenant governor and state auditor are also on runoff ballots.

Trump endorsed Knott in April. Weeks later, Daughtry suspended her campaign, when early voting was already underway. The runoff continued on Tuesday with both names on the ballot. Knott must win the most votes to ensure victory; he’s reminded his supporters that they need to get out and vote.

If Daughtry were to win, but turned down the nomination, local Republicans would choose a replacement to take on Democrat Frank Pierce in November.

WATCH | Kelly Daughtry drops out of Republican run-off primary election against Brad Knott

Kelly Daughtry dropped out of the Republican run-off primary election against Brad Knott for North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, won North Carolina, the country’s ninth-largest state, in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, and the state is expected to be a presidential battleground this fall. Turnout for Tuesday’s runoffs is expected to be very low, however. Democrats have no primaries.

The former president has a history of intervening in North Carolina politics. This year marks the second time he has endorsed a Daughtry opponent; in a 2022 primary for the 13th District, he backed her challenger and then-political newcomer Bo Hines, who won the primary.

Trump also endorsed then-US Rep. Ted Budd in the 2022 GOP primary for US Senate. Budd easily defeated former Gov. Pat McCrory, then went on to win the general election. In the recent March primary, Trump also backed first-time candidate Addison McDowell, who ended up winning the 6th Congressional District race.

A total of 14 candidates had initially competed this year for the 13th District seat, which represents all or parts of eight counties in or close to the capital of Raleigh. The district was retooled to the right by the Republican-controlled legislature, prompting current Democratic US Rep. Wiley Nickel not to run for reelection. The seat is one of three the GOP expects to add to the US House from North Carolina in the fall election, thanks to redistricting.

Daughtry was the top fundraiser and the top vote-getter in the March 5 primary, but she failed to garner at least 30% of the vote, the amount required to avoid a runoff. The second-place finisher must officially request a runoff for it to take place, and Knott did so.

SEE ALSO | Runoff expected between Kelly Daughtry, Brad Knott in crowded GOP primary for NC-13th

Despite those advantages, Daughtry essentially ended her campaign earlier this month in response to Trump’s April 5 endorsement of Knott, a former assistant US attorney from Raleigh.

Daughtry said the endorsement made clear to her “that a pathway to victory is no longer feasible.”

“I believe in the democratic process and respect the endorsement of our President,” she said in a written statement.

In a social media endorsement, Trump called Knott a “Strong Patriot” who would support law enforcement, secure the US-Mexico border and protect gun rights.

As for Daughtry, the daughter of a longtime Republican legislative leader, Trump called her a “RINO” – Republican in Name Only – and someone who “is no friend to MAGA,” a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. He said Daughtry had contributed to the campaigns of some Democratic candidates in the past.

In other races Tuesday, the runoff for lieutenant governor features Hal Weatherman, a former chief of staff to then-Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, and Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill. Forest finished first in the primary’s initial 11-candidate field. The winner will take on Democratic state Sen. Rachel Hunt, daughter of former four-term Gov. Jim Hunt.

The GOP auditor’s runoff features candidates Jack Clark and Dave Boliek. The winner will take on Democratic State Auditor Jessica Holmes. Libertarian Party candidates also are running for auditor and lieutenant governor.

GOP runoff voting is open to registered Republicans and unaffiliated voters who either voted in the March Republican primaries or didn’t vote at all.

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