CHINA GROVE Two of the losing candidates in the race for the Republican nomination in the 8th Congressional District endorsed second-place finisher Scott Keadle on Wednesday.
By endorsing Keadle, the two Republicans hope to stop front-runner Richard Hudson from winning the nomination in a July 17 runoff. Hudson, a one-time aide to former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes, led Tuesdays five-candidate field but failed to get the required 40 percent to avoid a runoff.
Keadle, a dentist who received 21 percent of the vote, faces Hudson in the runoff. The winner faces Democratic U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell in a much-anticipated race in a redrawn 8th District that has more Republicans and fewer Democrats than in the last election. The district stretches from Mecklenburg County to Robeson County.
On Wednesday, Keadle was at Garys Barbecue to win the endorsement of Winston-Salem City Council member Vernon Robinson, who received 18 percent of the vote, and John Whitley, 13 percent. Whitley is a Robeson County surgeon..
The fifth Republican in the race, Fred Steen of Landis, didnt appear.
Scott Keadle is the change agent, and Richard Hudson is the status quo, Robinson said.
Hudson responded quickly, calling the group outsiders and perennial candidates. He questioned the support for Keadle, who lives outside the district in Iredell County and received thousands of dollars in last-minute funding for TV ads from the Washington-based Club for Growth, a group that promotes cuts in federal spending.
Look at the last 30 years, Ive got stronger ties to the district than all three combined, Hudson said.
The runoff is another example of the battle between the GOP establishment (Hudson) and more conservative wing (Keadle) of the party that is playing out across the country.
Up to 37 percent of N.C. GOP primary voters affiliate themselves with the tea party, according to Public Policy Polling.
The runoff could be decided on how well each camp can turn out supporters to a mid-July election, long after the May publicity has died down. Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer said its unclear who has the most firepower.
I think both sides, established Republicans as well as tea party folks, are going to be energized, Bitzer said.
Keadle likened his support to the come-from-far-behind victory in Indiana on Tuesday by tea party hardliner Richard Mourdock, who defeated six-term veteran U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar.
Hudson said he, too, was rooting for Mourdock. He says he has tea party support in Davidson County and Charlotte and has been backed by S.C. tea party favorites, U.S. Reps Mick Mulvaney and Joe Wilson.
At his home in Concord, Hudson has a photo of him with longtime U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, who wrote: Keep fighting.
In conservative circles, however, Hudson has been dogged by his backing from party leadership and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
If you cant stand up to Eric Cantor, Keadle said. If you cant stand up to the leadership. If you cant tell them we need to change the direction of the country, then you dont need to be in Congress.