Republicans will pin their hopes on Richard Hudson to reclaim the 8th Congressional District after nominating him over former Iredell County commissioner Scott Keadle in Tuesdays runoff, the countrys most expensive U.S. House primary.
With all of the districts 12 counties reporting, Hudson, 40, a former 8th District director for former five-term Republican U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes, received 64 percent of the vote to Keadles 36 percent.
Hudson jumped out to a huge lead that only slightly narrowed. Hell now take his vast connections and knowledge of the district into the fall race against Democrat two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell of Biscoe, who unseated Hudsons former boss four years ago.
In recent weeks, Kissell has angered members of his own party by shifting his stands and votes to the political right in a redrawn, mostly rural, district that is increasingly Republican-friendly.
The Hudson-Kissell contest is projected to be one of the countrys tightest House races. Some pundits have called Kissell the most vulnerable Democrat in the country, and Republicans see the race as one of the partys best chances to pick up a seat.
Larry Kissell game on, Hudson told cheering supporters Tuesday night.
In an interview he said his grassroots campaign made the difference. Its a campaign with hundreds of volunteers across the district, people who share my desire to change the direction of this country, he said.
Hudson said he respects Kissell.
But I have been disappointed by the way hes represented us the last four years, he said. The people of this district deserve a congressman who will stand up for their values 100 percent of the time, not just when its convenient.
Keadle lost his third bid for U.S. House, running in three different districts.
Obviously, Im disappointed, the Salisbury dentist said in a statement. But I want to thank all my supporters and all the people who are working for the conservative cause. And I want them to know Ill continue to work for the conservative cause.
The runoff saw a seemingly endless flow of outside money.
Nearly $1.7 million from conservative groups and super PACs was pumped into the district, more than any other House race in the country, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The Club for Growth spent more than $700,000 in the district on Keadles behalf. The club had helped unseat longtime GOP incumbents such as U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., in primaries.
Hudson had deep-pocketed allies the more mainstream Republican organizations YG Action Fund and American Action Network poured in an additional $750,000 for anti-Keadle TV ads.
Both candidates staked claims as the conservative candidate.
Keadle complained that Hudson moved into the district after various jobs in Washington to run for Congress. He said that Hudson would be under the thumbs of Republican leaders House Speaker John Boehner and Majority leader Eric Cantor.
Hudson portrayed Keadle as a career candidate who runs for everything, and played up Keadles vote as an Iredell commissioner to accept federal stimulus money for county projects.
Now Hudson says he will go after Kissells flip-flopping on issues.
Kissell watched the GOP-led state legislature reapportion the 8th district with 28,000 more registered Republicans and 42,000 fewer black voters, who mostly vote Democrat.
In recent votes, he began to side with Republicans hoping to get support from white unaffiliated voters.
He has refused to endorse President Barack Obama for a second term, and last week upset district Democrats when he voted to repeal Obamas health care reforms. Kissell also voted to hold U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder, the countrys first black attorney general, in criminal contempt.
He has said he might not attend the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
His votes so angered black voters in the district that theyve put up a write-in candidate, Dobbins Heights Mayor Antonio Blue, chair of Richmond County Democratic Party.
Hudson said he cant wait to attack Kissells record.
The base of the Democratic Party is not happy with the latest shift to the right by Larry Kissell, he said.
So he may have problems with his own party. The fall race is going to be a referendum on Kissells record.