Candidates in two NC congressional races will ask for runoffs after Tuesday’s results

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The election isn’t over for four Republicans running for Congress after Tuesday night’s primary in North Carolina.

In both the 6th and 13th congressional districts, neither former lobbyist Addison McDowell nor attorney Kelly Daughtry reached 30% of the vote, which means the second-place finisher is able to request a runoff election to be held on May 14.

Both former Rep. Mark Walker and former federal prosecutor Brad Knott announced they plan to do just that.

And two statewide runoff elections are likely to be on the ballot that same day: lieutenant governor and auditor.

“We have not had four prominent positions with second primaries in North Carolina since the threshold was reduced to 30% in 2017,” said Chris Cooper, political science professor at Western Carolina University. “We have to go back to 2010 before we can find a comparable year and that was at a time when the threshold was 40%.”

In 2010, the Republican primaries for the U.S. Senate race and the 8th, 12th and 13th congressional districts all went into runoffs.

The 6th District

The 6th Congressional District race has included accusations of fake endorsements, including against Walker, and “deep fake” videos that targeted Walker.

McDowell surprised everyone in December when the first-time candidate announced both his candidacy and that former President Donald Trump would endorse him.

That meant a second snub for Walker, who expected a Trump endorsement in his 2022 U.S. Senate race, but was ultimately bested for it by now-Sen. Ted Budd, a Republican from Davie County.

Trump’s endorsement took McDowell from a virtual nobody in North Carolina politics to first place with 26% of the vote, followed by Walker who secured 24% in unofficial results.

“The question leading into 6 was whether Addison McDowell had enough money and time to make his Trump endorsement known,” Cooper said. “My expectation is that more time will be beneficial to McDowell and that by the time we get to May 14, every potential runoff voter will be aware that he got the Donald Trump endorsement. I think if Walker was going to win, his best shot was Tuesday night.”

Walker wasted no time Tuesday in announcing his intentions to move forward with a runoff, telling McClatchy just before midnight that he saw it as leveling the playing field. Prior to Tuesday night, he and McDowell faced four other opponents, including Bo Hines, who had the support of conservative super PAC Club for Growth, who continually hit Walker with negative ads.

Walker’s campaign spokesman, Jonathan Bridges, told McClatchy in a written statement that the campaign is grateful to their volunteers, supporters and team for working diligently during the campaign.

“For Walker, this is a bit of deja vu to 10 years ago when he was in a runoff,” Bridges said.

Then, Phil Berger Jr., now a state Supreme Court justice, surpassed Walker in the Republican primary to represent the 6th district, but did not secure enough votes to avoid a runoff. Walker then was able to pull off a win, going on to serve three terms in Congress before state lawmakers redrew his district to favor a Democrat.

It was an upset win against Berger, whom many see as part of a political dynasty in North Carolina. His father serves as state Senate leader. His brother is a county commissioner.

“Then it was a pastor up against a politician,” Bridges said. “Today, it’s a pastor up against a lobbyist. We’re ready for the next fight and confident in the grassroots coming back out in NC-6.”

But McDowell’s team is equally ready.

“Addison went from an unknown to a top contender with a buncha also-rans splitting the vote,” said Jonathan Felts, McDowell’s campaign advisor, in a written statement. “Now it’s just Addison vs. Mark Walker, a perennial candidate/professional politician who has crapped all over President Donald Trump and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson.”

Walker’s opponents highlighted sound bites of Walker talking negatively about Trump.

Walker first attempted to run against Robinson for governor, but didn’t have a viable path to win due to Robinson’s popularity with the party, and switched to the 6th district race.

The 13th District

Over in the Triangle, Knott took more time to announce his decision to request a runoff.

That came around noon Wednesday.

“We’re hitting the campaign trail again to secure victory in the NC 13 Republican Primary Runoff on May 14 so I can fight for you in Congress to secure the border, stop the surge in crime and disorder, and reduce inflation by cutting wasteful spending,” Knott wrote on social media. “In the fall election, I will join with President Trump to take the fight to the Democrats.”

Knott resigned his position as a federal prosecutor to focus on his congressional race.

He will face off against attorney Daughtry, who finished with more than 27% of the vote. Knott secured nearly 19%.

Daughtry also ran in 2022.

She is the daughter of Leo Daughtry, a Republican who served in both the state House and Senate. He and his daughter work in the same law firm, where she handles cases related to family law and civil and criminal litigation.

Both Knott and Daughtry found themselves in the middle of negative attacks during the primary.

Daughtry was accused of not being enough of a Republican, after donating to Democrats including Attorney General Josh Stein and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley.

Knott, WRAL reported, failed to update his address at the state Board of Elections after moving to a house he purchased in 2014. Instead, he kept voting under his old address, where his parents reside.

It’s a violation of state law to knowingly vote using an address where you do not live, and is considered a felony. There’s been no indication that Knott is under investigation for voting using his parents’ address.

Cooper said that the information about Knott’s voter registration came out late enough that he believes many NC13 voters did not hear about it.

“Daughtry will make sure everyone is aware of that,” Cooper said.