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Primary brings a few surprises mixed with establishment wins

2024 Primary Election Day in North Carolina
Matt Ramey
Voters check in to vote in the primary election in Wendell, North Carolina on March 5, 2024.

In North Carolina's 2024 primary election, establishment Democrats mostly advanced, while establishment Republicans didn't all fare as well. In a few races, no candidate reached the 30% threshold, meaning there could be runoff elections in those contests.

In one upset, State Superintendent Catherine Truitt was defeated by Michelle Morrow, a relatively unknown rival. Morrow has never held public office before, having run only for a seat on the Wake County school board in 2022, which she lost.

Republican candidate for State Superintendent Michele Morrow with her campaign team.
Michele Morrow campaign
Republican candidate for State Superintendent Michele Morrow with her campaign team.

Morrow says on her website that she has 16 years of experience in education, homeschooling her own children.

Catherine Truitt has been a reliable supporter of Republicans in the General Assembly and an advocate of school choice. Her campaign donors include charter school advocates and some local Republican Party chapters and clubs.

Most of the contributions to Morrow's campaign in her most recent finance report come from individual donors giving $500 or less.

In the Democratic primary, former Guilford County Schools Superintendent Mo Green had a large lead over two other candidates with nearly all votes counted.

Few surprises in the biggest races

At the top of the ticket, President Joe Biden won North Carolina's delegates for the Democratic nomination for president, as did former President Donald Trump on the Republican side. The race for North Carolina governor will pit Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson against Attorney General Josh Stein, a contest that gives voters starkly different options.

Stein is a longtime member of North Carolina’s political scene, a lawyer with the endorsement of term-limited Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and a long history of consumer advocacy before and during his time as AG.

Robinson, meanwhile, is a former factory worker who splashed into conservative circles after a 2018 viral speech on gun rights to his hometown city council catapulted him to lieutenant governor in 2020 and the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.

In 2021, he criticized efforts to teach LGBTQ+ issues in sex education, associating gay and transgender people with “filth.”

In the race for attorney general, Jeff Jackson, a congressman popular on TikTok, defeated Durham District Attorney Satana Deberry in the Democratic primary. Jackson will face Republican Congressman and former state Sen. Dan Bishop of Union County in November.

Possible runoff in Congressional races

The Republican primary in the 13th Congressional District started with 14 candidates vying for the nomination. Kelly Daughtry and Brad Knott are in the lead, but neither have surpassed the 30% threshold to avoid a runoff.

In the 6th Congressional District, Trump-endorsed lobbyist Addison McDowell and former congressman Mark Walker are the top two vote getters, with 26% and 24% of the vote, respectively.

Runoff elections are not automatic. The second-place vote getter must officially call for one, and the May ballot features only the top two vote getters.

Tim Moore won his primary race for Congress. Moore, the House Speaker in the General Assembly, will be the Republican nominee in the 14th Congressional District. The General Assembly that Moore has helped run redrew the Congressional map, including the seat west of Charlotte that Moore is now likely to win in November.

In the northeast corner of the state, military veteran Laurie Buckhout will be the Republican nominee for the 1st Congressional District and face Democratic incumbent Don Davis. Because of gerrymandering, this is widely seen as the only truly competitive race this fall.

NC General Assembly races

In the state legislature, several incumbents lost their primaries.

Several Democrats faced challengers who criticized them for working with Republicans on issues like charter schools and the state budget. In Durham, Senator Mike Woodard lost to former Obama administration staffer Sophia Chitlik. And in the Roanoke Rapids area, social studies teacher Rodney Pierce had a narrow lead over Representative Michael Wray.

High Point Representative Cecil Brockman narrowly won his primary.

On the Republican side, veteran state Representative George Cleveland lost to East Carolina University student Wyatt Gable in Onslow County.

And in Cabarrus County, challenger Brian Echevarria defeated incumbent Republican Representative Kevin Crutchfield.

Other legislative primaries could determine who will replace retiring state lawmakers. Former Representative John Blust won a Guilford County primary for the seat currently held by Republican Representative John Faircloth. And Mike Colvin – brother of Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin - won a Cumberland County primary to succeed Democrat Marvin Lucas.

Stories, features and more by WUNC News Staff. Also, features and commentary not by any one reporter.