Politics & Government

5 reasons to pay attention to NC’s June 7 primaries

North Carolina’s new congressional districts.
North Carolina’s new congressional districts. N.C. General Assembly

Lost in the blur of headlines about Donald Trump, the not-quite-over Democratic presidential race and House Bill 2 is an election that could reshape North Carolina’s U.S. House delegation.

Congressional seats across the state are at stake in the June 7 primary. Early voting starts Thursday for the election that few N.C. voters are even aware of.

“People in political circles are aware of it – the junkies – (but) the average man on the street doesn’t have a clue,” says Malcolm Graham, a Charlotte Democrat running in the 12th Congressional District.

Here are five reasons to tune in:

1 This time, it counts. Back in March, thousands of N.C. voters cast ballots for Congress that didn’t count.

That’s because a three-judge panel had thrown out the districts used for the past two elections after ballots had already been printed. Lawmakers went back to the drawing board, shuffling voters and incumbents. They came up with new districts and a new primary date, one at the start of a busy summer.

2 It actually counts more. Summer elections have never drawn the turnout of others. In 2008, a June runoff in one statewide race saw less than 2 percent of voters go to the polls.

Turnout next month may not be that low, but it will be low. Few races have drawn much attention.

3 It’s one and done. Speaking of runoffs, there are none this time. Nowhere could that have a bigger impact than in the new 13th District.

Seventeen Republicans and five Democrats are running in the district that covers all or part of five counties from Mooresville to Greensboro.

Do the math. That’s what Vernon Robinson did when he spoke to the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce. He figured 5,700 votes could be enough to win the primary in the Republican-leaning district.

“We want to find 300 fellas and women who can grab 19 of their friends and go vote,” the Winston-Salem Republican said, according to the Salisbury Post.

4 Possible upsets. At least three incumbents could face trouble in low-turnout, winner-take-all primaries.

Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers faces a tough fight in the 2nd District after fellow Rep. George Holding suddenly found himself in U.S. Rep. David Price’s district.

Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger is running in a newly drawn 9th District that stretches east from Charlotte to Bladen County and includes six counties that weren’t in the district before. He faces two opponents, including Charlotte pastor Mark Harris, who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014.

And Democrat Alma Adams is battling Graham and four other Democrats in the new 12th District, which is confined to Mecklenburg County. In the 2014 primary, Adams, who has lived most of her life in Greensboro, finished third in Mecklenburg.

5 He’s baaack. Republican Tim D’Annunzio is running again in a redrawn 8th District against second-term U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson of Concord.

Since he first ran in the 8th in 2010, D’Annunzio, of Hoke County, has run for Congress in the 4th District and for a while last year in the 2nd. In 2014 he ran for the U.S. Senate as a Libertarian.

In 2010, he pioneered “machine-gun socials” for fundraisers. State GOP leaders denounced him. And his relationship with the media was, shall we say, contentious. Nothing illustrated that like his interview with WBT radio’s Keith Larson.

“There’s a special place in hell for people like you,” he told Larson, who called D’Annunzio “a delusional, deranged human being.”