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Western NC voters make primary election choices

Lilly Knoepp
Some voters in Swain County cast their ballots at the Birdtown Recreation Center.

This post will be updated as results are finalized. Official results are certified by state canvass.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Chuck Edwards defeated challenger Christian Reagan in the Republican primary for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District.

“Of course, I'm honored and thrilled to be named as the Republican nominee for the November ballot,” Edwards said in an email to supporters Tuesday night.

The email included a video posted to Vimeo with a timestamp from Monday afternoon, prior to Election Day, where Edwards said "Normally on Election night, I'd be there with you."

"I enthusiastically accept your nomination," he said. Edwards called for the party to unite and praised Donald Trump's presidential bid.

The video was removed by Wednesday morning. The Edwards campaign did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Edwards will battle Democrat Caleb Rudow in November to keep his seat representing the state’s westernmost residents in Congress.

Reagan, a Clay County Republican, faced off against Henderson County’s Edwards in the lone debate for the seat in Brasstown. At the event, Reagan told BPR he would not run for office again if he lost the 2024 primary.

“I really believe that 2024 is the last best hope for America. [I] absolutely believe that,” he said. “I will not run for public office again if I lose.”

Gubernatorial challenge

The first Super Tuesday results for North Carolina put two well-known politicians in competition for the Governor’s race. Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein will face off in November against Republican Lt. Governor Mark Robinson for the state’s highest office.

All results are unofficial. Results become certified after state canvass.

Robinson bested State Treasurer Dale Folwell and attorney Bill Graham to become the GOP nominee for governor in Tuesday’s primary election. Stein defeated four other Democrats, including former Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan, in his bid to succeed Gov. Roy Cooper.

At the Faith and Freedom Coalition rally in Franklin in February, Robinson said his stance against trans rights set him apart from his primary opponents.

"I stood up to the whole transgender crap. I stood on the stage and told people how I feel about it and took them head-on,” he said.

Republican Lt. Gov Mark Robinson signs books at a Faith and Freedom Coalition rally in Franklin.
Lilly Knoepp
Republican Lt. Gov Mark Robinson signs books at a Faith and Freedom Coalition rally in Franklin.

At the Jackson County Board of Elections, Sheila Ashe campaigned for Robinson, noting his alignment with evangelical conservatives.

“I think it's very important that Christian people are truly getting out the vote,” Ashe said.

Voter George Sutton in Jackson County cast a vote for Robinson along with North Carolina 11th Congressional District Republican candidate Christian Regan.

“I feel like they are good people,” Sutton said. He explained that his top priorities in the election are the U.S. border and housing affordability.

“Prices have gone up way too high. We can't afford to rent hardly. I'm on disability and I can't afford it,” Sutton said. He explained that his rent recently increased by $50, making his disability income insufficient.

George Sutton and Sheila Ashe at the Jackson County Board of Elections
Lilly Knoepp
George Sutton and Sheila Ashe at the Jackson County Board of Elections in Sylva.

Stein also visited Western North Carolina in recent months to highlight his efforts to take on HCA Healthcare, the for-profit company that purchased Asheville’s Mission Hospital in 2019. In his role as attorney general, Stein filed suit against the health care giant.

During a roundtable with reporters in Asheville last month, Stein emphasized the importance of the medical facilities to the people of Western North Carolina.

"I want the people of Asheville to be confident that if they need to go there, that they'll get the quality of care that they deserve," Stein said at the time. "I don't know that folks are getting it to the level that they should be today. That's why we brought our lawsuit."

What motivates Western North Carolina voters

Western North Carolina voters cast their ballots for the 2024 primary election on Tuesday, joining thousands who made their choices during the early voting period.

Franklin residents Otis and Faye Tolbert said they voted to do their duty as citizens.

Otis and Faye Tolbert pose outside of the Community Center in Franklin.
Lilly Knoepp
Otis and Faye Tolbert pose outside of the Community Center in Franklin.

“We just want good, honest leaders that look out for the people and the taxpayers and our schools. We need good leaders,” Faye Tolbert said.

Otis Tolbert said he wants good leaders who follow through. “Actions speak louder than words. I would like to see some action and not just words. A lot of people tell you they’re gonna do all kind of things but they don't have no action. It’s just hot air,” he said.

During the 17-day early voting period, about 690,000 voters statewide cast mail-in and in-person ballots, according toWUNC. Early voting numbers were lower than the last presidential election in 2020. Results reporting is expected to be delayed due to a new law requiring county elections boards to refrain from tabulating mail-in and early ballots until the polls close.

On Election Day, polls opened at 6:30 a.m. and closed at 7:30 p.m.

Voters across Western North Carolina were motivated by a range of issues, but economic concerns topped the list.

Loree Huff, a Transylvania County voter, said the economy was her main focus.

“The country's in terrible bad shape, and the border. I'm just glad my kids are grown and gone, because I don't know how families are feeding their kids,” Huff said.

Henderson County voter Judy Aguilar agreed that the economy is paramount.

“Basically, a lot of it's the economy. Safety for people, the immigrants — but I'm supportive of them. You know, I don't think you can totally close a border off,” said Aguilar.

Fellow Henderson county voter Mary Marr said financial concerns were top of mind as she marked her ballot.

“Well equal pay for equal work. And the pay rate the minimum wage needs to be raised. Everything else is being way raised except minimum wage, and we need to get that up there so that we don't have to work two and three jobs just to earn one rent check,” Marr said.

Photo identification test

Tuesday’s primary election was the first major test of the state’s voter ID law. Although the regulation was enacted by a GOP-controlled legislature in 2018, legal challenges kept the measure from being implemented until last fall’s municipal election.

Across the region, voters that BPR spoke with did not have an issue with photo ID – including Aguilar.

“I see no problem with photo ID. I personally feel everyone should have photo ID,” Aguilar said in Henderson County.

Tommy Lee Whitlock of Jackson County brought his temporary driver’s license to vote along with his passport, just in case. Whitlock just moved to North Carolina from Virginia so he was a little nervous about voting in the state for the first time.

“It was easy to get in and out and people were very friendly and very helpful. So what's not to like?” Whitlock said.

Turnout on Super Tuesday is usually lower than in the general election, but many races – especially at the local level – are won and lost during the primary.