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NC Republican congressional candidate drops out just days before runoff election

Johnston County attorney Kelly Daughtry was running for Congress in the 13th district Republican runoff.
Kelly Daughtry Campaign
Johnston County attorney Kelly Daughtry was running for Congress in the 13th district Republican runoff.

Republican congressional candidate Kelly Daughtry said she's suspending her campaign just days ahead of this month's primary runoff and endorsing opponent Brad Knott.

Daughtry finished in first place in the March primary for an open seat in the 13th district, which wraps around the Triangle from Caswell County to Smithfield and Sanford. But second-place finisher Brad Knott called for a runoff, and he's since been endorsed by former President Trump and other prominent Republicans.

Daughtry acknowledged in a lengthy Facebook post Thursday that Knott was likely to win the May 14 runoff election.

"As a candidate, it is my duty to be transparent and honest with my team, supporters, and the voters," she said. "In light of President Trump's endorsement of Brad Knott for the Congressional seat in District 13, it has become clear that a pathway to victory is no longer feasible. I believe in the democratic process and respect the endorsement of our president.

"The time has now come to suspend my campaign. Although I will no longer be a candidate, I will not stop using my voice for the things I believe in."

Because Daughtry's announcement comes so late in the process, her name will still be on the ballot. Early voting is already under way in the Republican runoff, which also includes GOP primaries for lieutenant governor and state auditor (there are no runoff primaries on the Democratic side this year).

Her decision ends a bitter and expensive campaign that began with 14 Republican candidates vying for the open congressional seat. After the March primary narrowed the field to Daughtry and Knott, a former federal prosecutor, the two campaigns and the deep-pocketed PACs supporting them have traded attacks.

Daughtry's supporters accused Knott of being "Biden's attorney," because of his work in the U.S. District Attorney's office. Knott's team pointed to old social media posts in which Daughtry was supportive of Democratic candidates, claiming she's not a true Republican.

Both candidates and their family members have spent millions of dollars in the race. Daughtry alone loaned her campaign $2 million since the March primary.

The newly redrawn 13th district leans heavily Republican, making it likely that Knott will win in November over Democrat Frank Pierce.

N.C. Republican Party Chairman Jason Simmons praised Daughtry's decision to drop out in a news release. "Her decision is one that puts her values and her party above her own personal gain," he said. "Her continued involvement will ensure Republicans win up and down the ballot in November.”

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.