Veteran Democratic state legislator Alma Adams of Greensboro handily defeated former television anchor Vince Coakley on Tuesday to replace Mel Watt in the 12th Congressional District, which includes parts of Charlotte.
Her win means that, for the first time since the district was created in 1992, a Charlottean won’t represent the urban district that snakes along Interstate 85 into Forsyth and Guilford counties.
Democrat Watt of Charlotte had been the only representative of the district since its creation as one of two black-majority congressional districts in the state. He resigned in January to run the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The seat has been vacant since.
With 164 of 182 precincts reporting, Adams held a commanding lead, with more than 75 percent of the vote.
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In Mecklenburg, the margin was even larger, with Adams ahead of Coakley, 80.87 percent to 19.13 percent, with 59 of 76 precincts reporting.
Adams will be one of three new members of Congress from North Carolina. She also became the first Democratic woman from North Carolina to win a seat in the U.S. House since Eva Clayton in 2000.
“Tonight’s victory is historic,” Adams said at her victory party in Greensboro. “But making history comes with responsibility. The people of the 12th District have gone without representation for 10 months, and that’s unacceptable. Effective immediately, you will have a strong advocate in Congress who will always represent your interests.”
Adams also mentioned her mother, who cleaned houses for a living.
“She taught me a lesson, to keep a tidy house,” Adams, 68, told the crowd. “So I’m going to Washington to clean up the people’s House.”
She said she will work to raise the minimum wage and be an advocate for historically black colleges. She’s a graduate of one – North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. In Washington, Adams may also get some media attention for her hundreds of colorful hats.
Adams, who had served 11 terms in the North Carolina House, turned back a well-funded campaign by Coakley, a Charlotte Republican and former WSOC-TV news anchor making his first try for office. Coakley, who now hosts a weekly talk show in Greenville, S.C., raised $320,000 for the race.
Speaking to supporters Tuesday night in uptown Charlotte, Coakley said “I’m very thankful for the last 10 months and the wonderful people I’ve met.”
He added that “spiritual restoration,” not politics, is what will solve America’s problems.
Also winners Tuesday were incumbent U.S. Reps. Richard Hudson of Concord, who represents the 8th District, and Patrick McHenry of Cherryville, of the 10th District. Both are Republicans.
Running unopposed was 9th District U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, a Charlotte Republican who will start his second term in the new Congress.
With Tuesday’s results, the GOP increased its share of North Carolina’s congressional delegation by one seat. In the new House, Republicans from North Carolina will hold 10 seats and Democrats three.
In the one North Carolina congressional race that got national attention, GOP incumbent Renee Ellmers defeated Democrat Clay Aiken of Cary, who had a following around the country as a singer and a contestant on TV’s “American Idol.”
And the GOP took the U.S. House District 7 seat being vacated by Democrat Mike McIntyre. He’ll be succeeded by Republican David Rouzer, who came close to defeating McIntyre in 2012.
In other results around the state:
• The 6th District seat that came open with the announced retirement of longtime U.S. Rep. Howard Coble of Greensboro will be filled by Baptist ministerMark Walker
, also a Republican of Greensboro. He outpolled Democrat Laura Fjeld.
• Every one of the state’s 10 congressional incumbents won Tuesday. That list also included DemocratsG.K. Butterfield
(1st District) andDavid Price
(4th District) and RepublicansWalter Jones Jr.
(3rd District),Virginia Foxx
(5th District),Mark Meadows
(11th District) andGeorge Holding
(13th District).Staff reporter Hilary Trenda and Renee Schoof from McClatchy Newspapers contributed.