Close GOP races for Congress across North Carolina

Published February 29, 2024

By Dallas Woodhouse

While there are many important primaries across the state, the hottest races are in several newly drawn congressional districts likely to be won by the GOP nominees in the fall.  Under new maps, North Carolina is expected to elect 10 Republicans to Congress and three Democrats, with one swing seat that could go either way.

First Congressional District

The First Congressional District, is currently held by Democrat Don Davis, a first term freshman from Greene County. We previously profiled that GOP primary featuring previous nominee Sandy Smith and first-time candidate Laurie Buckout.

The sprawling, rural First Congressional District covers 22 counties, including Nash, Wayne, and Wilson. Not since 1883 has a Republican from North Carolina’s First District served in Congress. But the district is now rated as a toss up and will be North Carolina’s most competitive congressional district in the fall. NC-1 became a swing district after Pitt and Franklin counties were removed and some GOP leaning counties, including Currituck, were added.

While Smith won the nomination for this district twice, she only won her 2022 primary with a small plurality (31%) over a large fields of candidates. Smith vs Buckout is a two-person winner take all race for the GOP nomination. Buckout has been boosted by the Congressional Leadership Fund, an organization connected to US House GOP leadership, who believe Buckout will preform better as a candidate in the fall.

With Buckout having a significant spending advantage, both in her own campaign and outside groups backing her, we give the slight edge here to Buckout.

Current Congressional Republicans:

None of the current GOP House members from North Carolina face a serious primary and are expected to return to Congress. These include:

  • Greg Murphy (NC-3)
  • Virginia Foxx (NC-5)
  • David Rouzer (NC-7)
  • Richard Hudson (NC-9)
  • Chuck Edwards (NC-11)

Even though he is a first-time congressional candidate in a newly created GOP seat, we put current NC House Speaker Tim Moore of Cleveland County, running in NC-14 in this same category. Moore is expected to easily advance from the NC House to the US House in the fall.

But all other GOP congressional primaries are highly contested, with the GOP primary winners almost certain to win in November.

Sixth Congressional District

In the Greensboro area Sixth District, former US Rep. Mark Walker is looking to reclaim a district he represented from 2015-2021. Walker faces several other major candidates that are raising and spending significant funds, including  Col. Christian Castelli; Dr. Mary Ann Contogiannis; Jay Wagner, the former mayor of High Point; Addison McDowell, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump; and Bo Hines, who was previously endorsed by Trump in his 2022 campaign in the 13th Congressional District.

Other than Walker; Castelli, McDowell, and Hines have raised and spent the most money.  Walker started with significantly higher name identification and voter familiarity. The early March primary date after a December filing makes it hard to catch up in name ID and candidate branding even if you spend significant resources. Keeping Walker under 30% and forcing a runoff is unlikely, so unless another candidate surges above Walker and beats him outright without a runoff, Walker will be headed back to Washington DC.

Eight Congressional District

North Carolina’s Eighth Congressional District is open because US Rep. Dan Bishop is running for North Carolina attorney general.

Six Republican candidates are running in the Eighth Congressional District, which stretches from Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties to Robeson County.

Pastor Mark Harris was the nominee for a different version of the district in 2018. Harris’ narrow 2018 victory was overturned after allegations of ballot harvesting in Bladen County. Mecklenburg state Rep. John Bradford has invested significant personal resources advocating for his candidacy and attacking Harris. Leigh Brown, Don Brown, Allen Baucom, and Chris Maples are also running.

The attacks have taken a toll on Harris, who is the best known candidate in the race. Allen Baucom is strong in the districts largest county, Union. This race is too close to predict, but could be headed for a runoff.

10th Congressional District

In NC-10, the GOP primary will decide who replaces the retiring Patrick McHenry.

Republicans Charles Eller, Brooke McGowan, Diana Jimison, state Rep. Grey Mills, and Pat Harrigan are running.

The race appears to be a two-man race between Mills and Harrigan.

Harrigan is an Afghanistan war veteran who owns a gun manufacturing business. He lost to Democrat Jeff Jackson in the 14th District last election. He is a quality candidate and is supported by Americans for Prosperity. However, Mills is the best known in the district and appears to have the upper hand.

13th Congressional District

District 13 is North Carolina’s wildest congressional race this year, with 14 Republicans on the ballot.

The deep-red district’s largest counties are Johnston and Wake, although only part of the latter is in the district. The district includes all or parts of Harnett, Lee, Franklin, Granville, Person, and Caswell counties.

The Republicans vying to win the March 5 primary include Kelly DaughtryMarcus Dellinger, David Dixon,Brad Knott, Steve A. (Von) Loor, Josh McConkey, James Phillips, Siddhanth Sharma, Matt Shoemaker, Eric Stevenson, Fred Von Canon, Kenny Xu, Chris Baker, and DeVan Barbour.

The strongest four appear to be Fred Von Canon, DeVan Barbour, Kelly Daughtry, and Brad Knott. Knott’s campaign faced a late stumble, as reported by Bryan Anderson, when it was divulged that Knott for years cast his ballots from an address he no longer lived in. The race could be headed to a runoff. Kelly Daughtry is spending big late and may have the edge.