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Gov. Pat McCrory expected to set election date

Gov. Pat McCrory is expected to announce Monday the date of a special election to replace U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, ending months of uncertainty for would-be successors and for voters in the 12th District.

The Charlotte Democrat is scheduled to resign from Congress on Monday, when he’s sworn in as director of the National Housing Finance Agency.

At least six Democrats are already running in the heavily Democratic district, which winds from Charlotte to Greensboro.

McCrory spokesman Ryan Tronovitch declined to say when the special election might be held.

The special election would be North Carolina’s first for Congress since 2004, when G.K. Butterfield won a contest to replace fellow Democrat Frank Ballance, who resigned shortly before being sentenced to prison on federal fraud charges.

The 12th District special election could overlap with the regular election for Watt’s seat.

Filing for that race, like others in North Carolina, opens Feb. 10 and runs through Feb. 28. Primaries are scheduled for May, the general election in November.

But a special election could be held as early as March or even late February. Or it could be in May, concurrent with the regularly scheduled elections.

With so many candidates already in the race, there would probably be a primary runoff in mid-summer.

To complicate things, candidates running in the special election almost certainly would run in the regular election. If the elections are concurrent, their names could appear twice on the same ballot.

Because of the district’s demographics – Democrats make up 64 percent of voters – the Democratic primary has always been tantamount to election.

Mecklenburg County has more than half the district’s population and four of the six candidates running: state Sen. Malcolm Graham, former Charlotte City Council member James Mitchell, school board counsel George Battle III and attorney Curtis Osborne.

Two other candidates are from Guilford County: State Reps. Alma Adams of Greensboro and Marcus Brandon of High Point.

They’re trying to break Charlotte’s two-decade hold on the seat.

Since Watt won a contested primary in 1992, he’s never faced a serious challenge for re-election. With Butterfield, he’s one of two African-Americans in North Carolina’s congressional delegation.

Watt was confirmed for the housing post in December, seven months after being nominated by President Barack Obama.

Morrill: 704-358-5059
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