McDowell now uncontested in North Carolina House race after ex-Rep. Walker declines runoff

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A former North Carolina representative who finished second in last week's primary for essentially his old U.S. House seat announced on Wednesday that he won't ask for a runoff and will join Donald Trump's presidential campaign instead.

Ex-U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, who served in Congress for six years through 2020, ran in the central North Carolina 6th District, which now stretches from Greensboro and Winston-Salem south and west to Concord.

The top vote-getter in the six-candidate March 5 Republican primary, the Trump-endorsed Addison McDowell, failed to exceed the 30% vote threshold needed to avoid a May 14 runoff. But state law said it was up to Walker to formally ask for the runoff.

But Walker said he won't request a runoff, meaning that McDowell won the primary outright and almost assuredly will be the next 6th District representative, since he will face no Democratic opposition this fall.

Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning, the current 6th District representative, did not seek reelection, citing redistricting by the GOP-controlled legislature that made the seat lean significantly rightward. No other Democrat filed as a candidate.

Trump, in a social media posting earlier Wednesday, said that he had asked Walker, a former Baptist pastor, to “join my Campaign team to work with Faith Groups and Minority Communities, and he has agreed to immediately do so.”

“Mark and I had many Wins together, and we look forward to continuing to build bridges to all Communities in our Great Nation,” the former president wrote.

Walker, whose tenure in Congress was marked by efforts to aid historically Black colleges and universities, confirmed his hiring in a news release, saying that he had talked with Trump on Tuesday.

“I’ll continue my work as a bridge builder and am looking forward to bringing these skills to the Trump campaign,” he said.

McDowell, most recently a lobbyist for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, surfaced as a first-time candidate in December, already with Trump's formal backing. McDowell later received support from top state legislative leaders.

McDowell previously worked for GOP Rep. Richard Hudson’s campaign and as a district staffer for then-Rep. Ted Budd, who is now a U.S. senator. In a news release, McDowell thanked Budd for mentoring him and introducing him in 2016 to Trump.

“I can’t wait to work in Congress to help him secure our Southern border and fight for the America First Agenda that protects and promotes American jobs as the top priority," McDowell said of Trump.

McDowell ran a television commercial in which he talked about his commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Mexico border in light of his younger brother dying of a fentanyl overdose in 2016.

For Walker, who was elected to Congress in 2014, it was a round of redistricting that led him not to seek reelection. He finished third in the 2022 U.S. Senate primary to Budd, who got Trump's endorsement in that race. Walker also ran for governor for several months last year before shifting to the 6th District seat.

Walker said that after speaking with McDowell in recent days, “I'm convinced that Addison can do great things” for people in the 6th District.

The Republican primary for North Carolina's 13th Congressional District is headed to a runoff, however, as second-place finisher Brad Knott filed his formal request on Wednesday. Smithfield attorney Kelly Daughtry got the most votes in the 14-candidate race in the 13th — which arcs around most of Raleigh and stretches to the Virginia border — but fell short of exceeding 30%. The ultimate winner will take on Democrat Frank Pierce.

Current 13th District Rep. Wiley Nickel, a Democrat, is also not seeking reelection, citing last fall's redistricting that shifted the district to the right.

Under the North Carolina map used for the 2022 elections, Democrats and Republicans won seven congressional seats each. But the latest map makes it likely the GOP will win at least 10 of the 14 seats, according to election data, helping national Republicans trying to retain what is now a fragile House majority in 2025.