Who will win the primaries?

Published February 29, 2024

By Tom Campbell

My wife and I voted early and were appalled at how few had voted less than a week before the March 5th Primary. Most informed observers agree this will be a low turnout election. In the last presidential primary (2020), 31.9 percent of North Carolina voters cast ballots but don’t be surprised if this year’s final percentage is in the mid to upper 20s. Candidates don’t have money to get out the vote but, even if they did, voters are weary of politics.
Who will vote? The die-hard stalwarts in both parties, MAGA white males and folks over 60. Millennials are tuned out. Blacks and Latinos are turned off and college graduates just aren’t interested.
In addition to a low turnout, I predict there will be a half-dozen or more contests where no candidate gets the requisite 30 percent plus one vote to claim victory and a second primary will be needed May 14th.
No one can explain why so many Republicans decided to run but there are more highly contested races on the GOP side.
Presidential nominees are preordained, so let’s skip to statewide races, beginning with the gubernatorial primary. Republicans have a decision to make. Would they rather continue to fight culture wars or win elections? Lt. Governor Mark Robinson will never be governor! He will win the gubernatorial nomination but, in so doing, will assure that Democrat Josh Stein becomes governor. If Republicans wanted to win the office, they would select Dale Folwell, a good Treasurer and the only Republican with a real chance in November.
Democrat Josh Stein has been preparing to run for governor since 2016. He has a war chest loaded with cash and, while he represents the liberal faction of his party, will coast to the nomination. Mike Morgan is a solid challenger who has made some good points in his campaign but entered the fray too late.
10 candidates are running for the Republican Lt. Governor’s nomination. It’s been 16 years since Bev Perdue used that office as a steppingstone to become governor. Before that a young Jim Hunt made the transition 48 years ago. If it’s not a meaningful job or a steppingstone, why are so many running for this office?
In the GOP gaggle are former state Senator Deanna Ballard, Representative Jeffrey Elmore, Hal Weatherman, former chief of staff to Lt. Governor Forest, and perennial candidate Jim O’Neill. In the almost certain runoff, Ballard has the most media exposure and should prevail.
It’s unfair to tag Rachel Hunt with the “Hunt legacy” label. She is a competent and savvy State Senator and should easily win the Democrat’s Lt. Governor primary.
When Beth Wood resigned as State Auditor, Democrat Jessica Holmes was named to fill out her term and is the only Democrat running. Six Republicans are contesting the nomination, but the two most prominent include former State Senator Jeff Tarte and former UNC Board of Trustees chair Dave Boliek, Jr. Traditional wisdom says Tarte would win but Boliek has spent more than a million dollars on social and nontraditional media. We call this one a tossup.
Congressman Dan Bishop will win the GOP Attorney General’s uncontested nomination. Three Democrats are seeking the nomination. Congressman Jeff Jackson, one of the young stars in their stable will win.
Another tossup is for State Treasurer. Democrat Wesley Harris has spent a bundle on TV, Gabe Esparza has more related experience and got the endorsement of our two largest newspapers. The Republican primary is also competitive. A. J. Daoud has run for office before and is challenged by Rachel Johnson and Brad Briner. Daoud and Briner will be the top two, but we put both parties’ outcome in the tossup category.
The Insurance Commissioner’s contest is worth watching. Incumbent Republican Mike Causey is standing for re-election, but he has run afoul of legislative leadership and has been the subject to News and Observer scrutiny. His opponent is Bob Brawley, long considered a maverick. Give the nod to Causey because the firefighters stand solidly behind him.
Incumbent Steve Troxler easily wins the Republican renomination to Agriculture. Incumbent GOP Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt coasts to renomination and Democrats will pick Mo Green. In the vacant Labor Commissioner’s race, Republican Representative Jon Hardister will likely win over OSHA attorney Luke Farley. The three Republicans seeking the Secretary of State nomination are not well known. Whoever wins will face a popular vote-getter, Democrat Elaine Marshall in November.  
In the one Supreme Court seat being contested current Democrat Justice Allison Riggs will prevail over Lora Cubbage. Incumbent Court of Appeals Judge Hunter Murphy gets the nod for seat 15.
Space doesn’t permit in-depth discussions about all 14 congressional races, but the contests in the 1st, 6th, 8th, 10th and 13th districts are interesting. Three will likely have runoffs. 
Help prove the political pundits wrong about the low turnout by voting. We deserve to have elections decided by many voices, not just a few
Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965.  Contact him at tomcamp@carolinabroadcasting.com