Republicans Richard Hudson and Scott Keadle appeared headed Tuesday night for a July 17 runoff for the chance to take on two-term congressman Larry Kissell one of the countrys most vulnerable Democrats.
With nearly half the vote in from the 12-county district reporting, Hudson a one-time district director for former Rep. Robin Hayes led the five-man field with 32 percent of the vote. Hed need to clear 40 percent to take the nomination outright.
Running second, with 22 percent of the vote, was Dr. Scott Keadle. The dentist from Iredell County seemed to surge from the back of the pack in recent days after a series of TV ads promoting him were bankrolled by Club for Growth, a conservative group that promotes free markets and cuts in federal spending.
Hudson, who won 10 of the 12 counties Tuesday, said hed remind voters in the runoff that Keadle does not live in the 8th District.
Combining a conservative message with a strong grass-roots campaign and candidate who is from the district makes for a winning formula, Hudson said about his first-place finish.
Keadle, meanwhile, said votes cast for him and the other candidates were a rejection of Hudson the past chief of staff of three Congress members as a Washington insider.
The American people, here and in Indiana (where longtime Sen. Richard Lugar lost a primary fight) said no to Washington insiders and no to those running the federal government, Keadle said.
Winston-Salem City Council member Vernon Robinson finished third with 17 percent.
State Rep. Fred Steen II of Landis in Rowan County had 15 percent, and Dr. John Whitely, a brain surgeon from Robeson County, 14 percent.
A runoff between Hudson and Keadle will have all the makings of a classic contest between the GOP establishment and the insurgent tea party.
Thats the battle thats going on within the Republican Party all across the country, said Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer, a close observer of the race.
This is going to be the North Carolinas version of what the national GOP is going to have to deal with, this fight between the establishment and the tea party, he said.
While both claim to be conservative on issues, Bitzer said, the establishment understands that they have to govern somehow, while the tea party is willing to draw the line in the sand and say no.
Meanwhile, Kissell won the Democratic nomination, as expected. He had 68 percent to 32 percent for Lumberton attorney Marcus Williams.