Absentee ballots give Democrat Hunt lead over GOP’s Brawley in close legislative race

Republican Rep. Bill Brawley and Democrat Rachel Hunt
Republican Rep. Bill Brawley and Democrat Rachel Hunt

Absentee ballots put Democrat Rachel Hunt ahead of Republican Rep. Bill Brawley on Friday night in one of the state’s closest legislative races.

Brawley, who lives in Matthews, led by 52 votes on Election Day. But Friday’s count of absentee ballots gave Hunt a 64-vote lead, according to the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections.

Final votes will be called next week when the county counts provisional ballots.

The race was one of the highest-profile in North Carolina, matching a powerful committee chair and the daughter of a four-term governor. It was also one of the most expensive.

Hunt raised over $1.2 million and got about $900,000 in support from the state Democratic Party. Brawley raised over $410,000.

Hunt’s father, Jim Hunt, gave the party $325,000 this year according to reports filed with the state board of elections. The state party spent over $16 million on elections.

Friday’s count of absentee ballots appears to bring the race closer to a resolution. Overseas and military ballots aren’t due until next week. Election officials also have until next week to count absentee ballots from overseas military voters. And next Friday is the deadline to count provisional votes.

Hunt won the absentee ballots that were counted on Election Day, 1,129 to 764.

“We are confident that as the remaining ballots are counted Rachel’s lead will continue to grow,” Hunt’s campaign said in a statement Friday night.

Brawley would be one of only two Republican lawmakers from Mecklenburg County. GOP Sen. Dan Bishop won Tuesday, but four Republicans — Sen. Jeff Tarte and Reps. John Bradford, Andy Dulin and Scott Stone — lost their reelection bids.

The Mecklenburg House race wasn’t the state’s closest legislative race.

In New Hanover County, Democrat Harper Peterson leads Republican Sen. Michael Lee by 36 votes.

Jim Morrill, 704-358-5059; @jimmorrill