Politics & Government

Race for Tillis’ NCHouse District 98 seat county’s costliest

Republican Thom Tillis’ U.S. Senate race is the most expensive in the nation. And the race for his legislative seat is the most expensive in Mecklenburg County.

Republican John Bradford III and Democrat Natasha Marcus are waging a high-stakes contest for the seat Tillis is leaving in north Mecklenburg’s House District 98.

It may be one of the few truly competitive races in the county, and statewide. Party operatives say only a half dozen or so seats are really in play.

Despite the lack of overall competition, both sides are raising millions of dollars as Democrats face an uphill fight trying to chip away at Republican super-majorities in the House and Senate.

“I would say it’s very likely Republicans will maintain control of both houses of the General Assembly,” said Joe Stewart, who tracks legislative races as executive director of the N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation.

As parties steer money to competitive races, even candidates with no competition are contributing to their party kitty.

Republican Sen. Bob Rucho of Matthews, unopposed since turning back a primary challenger, has raised $404,000. And GOP Rep. Bill Brawley of Matthews, who has had no opponent at all, has raised $104,000. Like Rucho, he transferred thousands to the state party to redistribute.

In most Mecklenburg races, Republicans hold a lopsided financial edge:

• Republican Rep. Charles Jeter out-raised Democrat Robin Bradford 40-1 in District 92 in west Mecklenburg.

Jeter raised $164,000; Bradford, a former county Democratic chair, raised $4,300. Jeter won in 2012, the same year President Barack Obama carried the district.

Said Jeter: “I don’t live in a district where I can take anything for granted.”

• In House District 88, in central and south Charlotte, Republican Rep. Rob Bryan raised $234,000 to Democrat Margie Storch’s $56,000.

Bryan got $123,000 from party groups and political action committees for groups such as American Airlines, Piedmont Natural Gas and trial lawyers.

• And in Senate District 41 in north and east Mecklenburg, Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte took in $290,000. Democrat Latrice McRae raised just $7,000.

In the contest for Tillis’ seat, Bradford raised $380,000 through mid-October. The Cornelius town commissioner loaned his campaign $160,000.

The owner of a residential property management and real estate investment firm, Bradford has a long list of endorsers, including Tillis, Gov. Pat McCrory and the N.C. Association of Educators.

He’s campaigned on improving education, bringing jobs and investing in roads.

Bradford got $42,000 from political party committees and more than $22,000 from political action committees representing groups such as the Beer and Wine Wholesalers and the N.C. Realtors.

Marcus is a Davidson attorney and former political organizer who grew up in a Republican family. She’s raised $194,000 in a district where Democrats are outnumbered by Republicans and unaffiliated voters. Most of her money came from individuals.

“It’s a Republican district but it’s not a heavily Republican district, so this is one of those that’s winnable,” she said. “We can appeal to people on nonpartisan issues like education.”