Republican John Bradford opened a solid advantage over Democrat Natasha Marcus in Tuesday’s race for a vacated state House seat.
With nine of 12 precincts reporting, Bradford was leading the contest with nearly 55 percent of the vote to 45 percent for Marcus.
The district representing northern Mecklenburg County tilts Republican, but the competitiveness came as no surprise.
The winner will replace former state House Speaker Thom Tillis, who ran for U.S. Senate.
Party operatives had predicted it would be one of only a half-dozen contests where the outcome was truly in doubt.
That helped fuel spending, making it the most expensive race in Mecklenburg County.
A Cornelius town commissioner, Bradford raised $380,000 through mid-October. He lent his campaign $160,000.
The owner of a residential property management and real estate investment firm, Bradford won a lengthy list of endorsements, including nods from Tillis, Gov. Pat McCrory and the N.C. Association of Educators.
He campaigned on improving education, bringing jobs and investing in roads.
Marcus is a Davidson attorney and former political organizer.
She stayed competitive by raising $194,000 in a district where Democrats are outnumbered by Republicans and independents.
She appealed to voters by emphasizing issues such as education, where different sides can agree.
Surprisingly, Marcus received support from tea party activists because she opposed Interstate 77 toll lanes.