Primary night engages voters in record numbers
Published 12:31 pm Friday, May 20, 2022
Freshman lawmaker ousted, Sheriff receives second term, Trump endorsement helps in Senate race
With the dust settling from Tuesday’s primary and with the attention of national news outlets mostly gone, politicians and pundits are poring over the data from primary night and plotting strategies for November’s general election.
All the attention focused on the federal races translated to more people turning up at the polls. Approximately 19.6 percent of the state’s registered voters cast a vote in Tuesday’s primary, making it the second highest turnout in a midterm since 1990 and the highest since 2002, according to Chris Cooper, professor of Political Science & Public Affairs at Western Carolina University.
In Polk County, there was a 23.88 percent turnout, according to the North Carolina Board of Elections.
NC-11 Congressional Seat
The most hotly contested race, and one garnering the most local attention, was for the GOP District 11 Congressional seat held by Rep. Madison Cawthorn. A string of run-ins with the law, salacious videos, district flip-flopping, ethics complaints, a marriage and quick divorce, controversial comments about Ukrainian president Zelensky and accusations of Congressional peers using drugs proved too difficult to overcome for the freshman congressman — although the race had a close finish. N.C. Sen. Chuck Edwards announced he won the race before it was officially called, the two competitors had a conversation by phone, and Cawthorn tweeted at 11:31 p.m.: “Congratulations to @ChuckEdwards4NC on securing the nomination tonight. It’s time for the NC-11 GOP to rally behind the Republican ticket to defeat the Democrats’ nominee this November.”
Unofficial results had Chuck Edwards winning the nomination with 29,374 votes (33.41 percent) to Cawthorn’s 28,036 votes (31.89 percent), a difference of only 1,338 votes. With eight competitors in the race, the possibility of a runoff was in the back of many people’s minds, but both Edwards and Cawthorn crossed the 30 percent plus one vote threshold. If that threshold had not been met by any candidate, it would have triggered a runoff.
Despite winning 12 counties, Cawthorn couldn’t overcome the population centers in Henderson, Transylvania and Buncombe — counties which also happen to be the political base from which Edwards was elected to the state senate.
Polk’s unofficial final vote tallies for that race have Cawthorn receiving 1,091 votes, or 39.53 percent. Edwards received 1,024 votes, or 37.10 percent. Of Polk’s seven precincts, Cawthorn carried six. Edwards carried the Tryon precinct.
According to an analysis of PAC spending conducted by OpenSecrets.org, Republican-aligned PACs spent just under $2 million on attack ads and mailers, against Cawthorn and pro-Edwards. A Democrat-aligned PAC spent just $16,000 attacking Cawthorn. One PAC, the Drain the DC Swamp PAC, spent $28,000 in support of Cawthorn.
Cawthorn far outraised his competitors, and at one point had $3.5 million in the bank. His spend rate also proved to be controversial, and his campaign finished in the red by nearly $325,000. Only 24 percent of his donations came from within North Carolina.
Over on the Democratic ticket, the results were more predictable and expected. Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara won every county in the district with a total of 32,277 votes, or 59.65 percent. Her nearest competitor was small business owner and environmental engineer Katie Dean, who finished with 13,899 votes, or 25.69 percent. There were six challengers on the Democratic ticket. In Polk County, Beach-Ferrara received 497 votes to Dean’s 295. Of Polk’s seven precincts, Beach-Ferrara carried six. Dean carried the Green Creek district.
According to the latest campaign filings dated April 27, in the primary cycle Beach-Ferrara raised $1.5 million, spent $1.2 million and has $251,000 cash on hand. Edwards raised $803,000, spent $611,000 and has $191,000 cash on hand.
Edwards is widely expected to win the seat in November. The district is categorized as R+9.
The U.S. Senate Seat
Also garnering intense media scrutiny was the race for the U.S. Senate seat nomination. In a 14-way race, Republican voters chose Trump-backed Rep. Ted Budd of North Carolina’s 13th District.
Unofficial statewide totals show Budd received 58.63 percent of the votes (445,250 votes). His nearest competitor was former North Carolina governor and mayor of Charlotte, Pat McCrory, who finished with a disappointing 24.59 percent of the vote (186,742 votes).
Budd swept 99 counties; McCrory carried his home county of Mecklenburg by only 70 votes. In Polk County, Budd received 1,440 votes (54.46 percent) to McCrory’s 734 votes (27.76 percent). Budd carried all seven of Polk’s precincts.
PAC spending was heavy leading to the primary. According to OpenSecrets.org, PACs supporting Budd spent $8 million, while those supporting McCrory spent just under $500,000. Opposition PACs spent $1.2 million against Budd, and $6.2 million against McCrory.
The day after the primary, McCrory spoke on WFAE radio and said he hadn’t reached a decision whether to endorse Budd in the November general election against Democrat nominee Cheri Beasley, that he feels like a man without a party, and that his political career is over.
Cheri Beasley, the first African American woman to serve as Chief Justice in North Carolina, nabbed the Democratic nomination, out of a field of 11 challengers. Statewide, she received a whopping 81 percent of the vote, or 497,367 votes. She carried all 100 counties, including Polk County.
Polk County’s Chrelle Booker, one of the 11 challengers, received 204 votes to Beasley’s 542 votes in Polk County. Booker logged 9,832 votes statewide.
PAC spending in support for Beasley totaled $64,000, and opposition spending totaled $1.3 million.
Budd’s campaign raised $4.4 million, spent $4.3 million and has $1 million cash on hand going into the five month stretch to the general election. Beasley’s campaign raised $9.6 million, spent $6.3 million, and has $3.2 million cash on hand, as of the last campaign filing in late April.
North Carolina District 113
The race for the Republican nomination for North Carolina’s House of Representatives for District 113, which encompasses parts of Henderson County, all of Polk County and McDowell County, and western Rutherford County was a runaway for incumbent Jake Johnson.
Johnson received 65.03 percent of the vote (7,545 ballots) versus his competitor, David Rogers, who received 34.97 percent of the vote (4,058 ballots). Johnson, a former Polk County commissioner, carried Henderson, Polk and McDowell Counties handily. He carried his home base of Polk County by 85.29 percent. In Rutherford County, he lost to Rogers by 123 votes.
“I would like to say thank you to the voters of the new District 113 for the trust you have placed in me to be your voice in Raleigh!,” Johnson wrote to the Bulletin. “I will continue fighting to create a better future for the next generation here in Western North Carolina. I am grateful to God, my family and all who have helped make this win possible. I am thankful for the opportunity to continue serving the district where I was born and raised. Now, time to get back to work delivering results!”
According to Cliff Marr, Polk County’s Board of Elections director, Johnson’s 85 percent vote share “is the highest for an NC House Representative or NC Senator (in Polk County) going back to 2008. The previous highs are Ralph Hise with 74% in the 2014 primary and Cody Henson in the 2016 primary with 67%.”
Johnson was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Cody Henson in August 2019. He was re-elected to the seat in 2020 and will run unopposed this November. Henson pleaded guilty to cyberstalking in a domestic violence case and resigned.
Republican incumbent District Attorney Andrew Murray won his race with a decisive 26-point margin over challenger Mary Ann Hollocker. Murray will be unopposed in November for the 42nd prosecutorial district seat. The district covers Polk, Henderson and Transylvania counties. Murray earned 14,797 votes to Hollocker’s 8,644 district wide. In Polk County, Murray received 1,480 votes to Hollocker’s 918.
Murray carried all seven precincts in Polk.
North Carolina Court of Appeals
For Judge Seat 9, Donna Stroud beat Beth Freshwater Smith, 1,482 to 812 in Polk County and 397,456 to 272,936 statewide.
For Judge Seat 11, Michael Stading beat Charlton Allen, 1,524 to 726 in Polk County and 466,336 to 192,658 statewide.
Both Republicans will run unopposed in November.
North Carolina Supreme Court
Three challengers vied for Associate Justice Seat 5 on the NC Supreme Court. Trey Allen won the nomination with 55.43 percent of the vote, or 382,780 ballots statewide. April Wood finished second and Victoria Prince third.
In Polk County, however, Wood finished first, Allen a close second, and Prince third. Allen will be unopposed in November.
Polk County Sheriff
Incumbent Polk Sheriff Timothy Wright handily defeated challenger Daniel Elliot with 75.6 percent of the vote countywide, sweeping all seven precincts. The unofficial final vote count was 2,042 to 659.
Late Tuesday night, Wright released a statement to the Bulletin: “I appreciate the overwhelming support of Polk County and their trust in me to continue serving as their sheriff. I am humbled by the community in which I serve and will strive to maintain a professional and respected agency for the next four years. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve as your sheriff.”
There is no Democratic challenger for sheriff, so Wright will be unopposed in the general election in November.