© 2024 Blue Ridge Public Radio
Blue Ridge Mountains banner background
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

2024 North Carolina primary elections: Breaking down races for Congress

A graphic with a purple background that reads: North Carolina Primaries 2024 Races To Watch: Congressional.
Elizabeth Baier

WUNC has all the coverage you need this election season. Be sure to check out our Races To Watch stories for everything you need to know about candidates in statewide, congressional and legislative elections. Subscribe to WUNC's Politics Podcast, check out our new “Main Street” series, listen to Due South’s election preview, and follow Capitol Bureau Chief Colin Campbell on social media. Additionally, reporter Rusty Jacobs has you covered on all things related to redistricting and election integrity. Early in-person voting for the primaries begins Feb. 15, and Election Day is March 5.

This year will bring major turnover in North Carolina’s congressional delegation, thanks in part to redistricting.

Republican-drawn districts are replacing districts drawn by a court-appointed expert in a gerrymandering lawsuit. That means that what’s now an even partisan split — seven Republicans and seven Democrats representing North Carolina in the U.S. House — will likely shift to either 10 Republicans and four Democrats or 11 Republicans and three Democrats.

Current U.S. Reps. Wiley Nickel, Kathy Manning and Jeff Jackson — all Democrats — decided not to run again after their districts were redrawn. That resulted in three open seats that favor Republicans, as well as two other open seats where Republican congressmen Dan Bishop and Patrick McHenry aren’t running again.

This effectively means that five new members of Congress will likely be chosen in the Republican primary, since the districts make it nearly impossible for a Democrat to win in November. Most have strong competition, with the exception of the 14th district, where House Speaker Tim Moore is expected to win the primary.

Here’s a look at who’s running:

Crowded ballot for Triangle-area congressional seat

Republican voters who diligently research every candidate will have lots of homework to do in the 13th Congressional District, which wraps around the Triangle from Caswell County to Smithfield and Sanford.

A total of 14 candidates — yes, FOURTEEN — filed to run in the GOP primary, and whoever wins will likely go to Congress because the district was drawn to strongly favor Republicans.

Naming a frontrunner here would be impossible, but several names on the ballot stick out because of their fundraising advantages or past election results.

Former federal prosecutor Brad Knott has backing from a super PAC spending big on TV ads. Air Force Reservist and doctor Josh McConkey has loaned his campaign $250,000. Johnston County attorney Kelly Daughtry (daughter of longtime N.C. Rep. Leo Daughtry) spent nearly $3 million of her own money running for the same seat in 2022.

And DeVan Barbour, also of Johnston County, is running again after coming in second place in the 2022 GOP primary for the seat. Businessman Fred Von Canon is a familiar name from previous legislative campaigns.

With so many candidates, a last-minute endorsement — like one from Donald Trump, perhaps — or ad campaign from an outside group like Club For Growth could make a big difference.

Battle of endorsements in the Triad

Bo Hines speaks at a Donald Trump rally on Saturday at The Farm at 95 in Selma, North Carolina in 2022.
Kate Medley
Bo Hines speaks at a Donald Trump rally on Saturday at The Farm at 95 in Selma, North Carolina, in 2022.

Another open congressional seat — the redrawn 6th District — is also drawn to favor a Republican candidate, putting all the action in the primary.

Influential GOP leaders and groups are split over who to support here: Trump has endorsed Addison McDowell, who has worked as a lobbyist at the state legislature and an aide to prominent Republicans. Numerous Republican state legislators are also backing McDowell.

Club For Growth, which has in the past spent millions on its preferred candidates, is throwing its weight behind former N.C. State football player Bo Hines, who narrowly lost a congressional race in the Triangle in 2022.

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson endorsed his former colleague, former Congressman Mark Walker, and then rescinded the endorsement.

Former High Point Mayor Jay Wagner, military veteran Christian Castelli and plastic surgeon Mary Ann Contogiannis are also running.

The return of Mark Harris?

Another crowded Republican primary is in the 8th Congressional District, which runs from the Charlotte suburbs east to Lumberton.

Perhaps the best-known candidate here is Mark Harris, the pastor who almost won the 2018 congressional race in this area before an election fraud scandal brought down his candidacy.

Will voters overlook that chapter of political history and give Harris another chance? Or will they pick one of the five other candidates on the ballot?

They include former Union County Commissioner Allen Baucom, current N.C. Rep. John Bradford of Mecklenburg County, Richmond County Commissioner Chris Maples, Harrisburg real-estate agent Leigh Brown, and author and former U.S. Navy JAG officer Don Brown. Surely, two candidates with the same last name won’t be confusing at all.

The race to replace McHenry

Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., talks to reporters hours before Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was ousted as speaker on Tuesday. McHenry was named speaker pro tempore and will temporarily lead the House.
Mark Schiefelbein
FILE — Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., talks to reporters hours before Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was ousted as speaker on Oct. 3, 2023. McHenry was named speaker pro tempore and temporarily led the House.

The 10th Congressional District looked to be a quiet race, until incumbent Congressman Patrick McHenry’s surprise announcement that he won’t seek re-election.

The shake-up in the district — which runs from Winston-Salem southwest to Hickory and Lincoln County — prompted candidates to switch races late in the candidate filing season.

State Rep. Grey Mills, R-Iredell, has chaired an election-related committee in the House. He’s running with support from GOPAC, a national conservative group that’s funded ads promoting his campaign.

His main opponent is Pat Harrigan, a business owner and Army veteran. Three other candidates are also running: Charles Eller, Diana Jimison and Brooke McGowan.

The race for N.C.’s only swing district

The 1st Congressional District, represented by first-term Democratic Congressman Don Davis, is the only truly competitive district in the new maps drawn by the GOP legislature.

Republican Sandy Smith ran unsuccessfully against Davis in 2022 and is seeking a rematch under district lines that are a bit more favorable to the GOP. Accusations of domestic violence surfaced during her last campaign, including an allegation that she’d hit her then-husband with a frying pan.

Smith denied those allegations, but she’s embraced the frying pan imagery ever since. “I do occasionally use my frying pan to adjudicate justice,” she posted on X, formerly Twitter, in January.

Another Republican, Army veteran Laurie Buckhout, faces Smith in the GOP primary. Buckhout boasts endorsements from N.C. Sen. Bobby Hanig and former Trump National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, the latter of whom — along with Donald Trump and Mark Robinson — endorsed Smith in 2022.

WUNC Digital Producer Mitchell Northam contributed to this story.

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