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NC congressional primaries wrap up with no need for runoffs

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RALEIGH, N.C. Local Charlotte — As North Carolina voters filled out their primary ballots there were a lot of choices. But those same voters avoided a second trip to the ballot box in July.

Out of 14 congressional races, which is really 28 when you count both parties, there will be no runoff.

A 2017 state election law lowered the percentage of votes needed to win from 40 percent to 30 percent plus one vote.

“One of the main reasons why the substantial plurality was dropped from 40 percent to 30 percent was that the legislature at the time thought 30 percent is enough. You don’t need to go to the expense and trouble of having a second election just because someone didn’t meet the 40 percent standard,” said Mitch Kokai with the John Locke Foundation.

Because they didn’t hit that 40 percent, five congressional primary winners have the 2017 law to thank for avoiding a runoff, including three high-profile races. Republican Sandy Smith in the first district, Bo Hines in the 13th district and state Senator Chuck Edwards, who beat the controversial Madison Cawthorn, in the 11th district.

“Chuck Edwards got 33 percent of the vote, Cawthorn got 32 percent, and because of the 2017 state law that meant that Edwards is the winner,” said Kokai. “Cawthorn doesn’t have a chance to call for a runoff.”

While there was a rally around Edwards to beat Cawthorn, Kokai said it wasn’t the same case in the District 13 race.

“It’s harder for folks trying to run against a particular candidate to beat that candidate if they can’t gel around one alternative,” Kokai explained.

“Let’s look at the Bo Hines race. Bo Hines was anointed and supported by President Trump. But there were a lot of republicans in that new 13th district who weren’t that thrilled about him because he was young and didn’t have any kind of record… or the fact some of his statements in the past suggest that he might not be all that conservative or it might have come down just to the fact that he wasn’t from there. He was from the Triad and had moved into this area simply to run for congress.”

“So there was a good degree of anti-Hines sentiment. But it was dispersed among several different candidates,” Kokai continued.

“If you had taken the top two anti-Hines or anybody but Hines candidates and put them together they would have had more votes than him. Which suggests that had this gone to a runoff then Hines would have perhaps had a little bit more challenge winning,” said Kokai.

The respective nominees can now focus on the fall election and not have to worry about spending more money and time dividing their own party.  

In most states though, this wouldn’t even be a topic of conversation.

“North Carolina is one of only ten states that have a primary runoff at all. In most of the states, a substantial majority of the states, if you have a multi-candidate primary and someone wins with less than 30 percent of the vote, they win,” Kokai said.



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