RALEIGH (AP) — Incumbent U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers and former state Sen. David Rouzer won Republican Party primaries on Tuesday in closely watched North Carolina congressional races.
Ellmers, a 50-year-old nurse from Dunn, beat former foreign currency trader Frank Roche of Cary to win the GOP nomination in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District, according to unofficial results.
“I hope we can unite as a party and move forward to November with our focus on retaining our conservative majority in the House and reclaiming a conservative majority in the Senate,” Ellmers said in a statement. “We cannot stop (President Barack) Obama without it.”
Ellmers rode the tea party wave that shook up Congress in 2010 and now is looking for a third term. She enjoys an advantage because the district’s map was drawn by GOP lawmakers to favor a Republican. Mitt Romney won nearly six in 10 votes in the district in 2012, and Ellmers captured 56 percent.
Ellmers will face the candidate chosen in the Democratic Party primary contest. The race between entertainer Clay Aiken and textile entrepreneur Keith Crisco was too close to call late Tuesday, with both hovering around the 40 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff election in July.
Crisco spent four years as the state’s top business recruiter under former Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue. Aiken’s first political campaign drew an unusual amount of celebrity buzz thanks to a career that included second place finishes on the TV shows “American Idol” and “Celebrity Apprentice.”
“I think Clay is truly interested in helping people,” 64-year-old Jane Hinnant of Pittsboro said as she voted in the Democratic primary. Aiken is an openly gay man in a district populated with many socially conservative, evangelical Christians.
“We need to stay out of people’s bedrooms,” said Bob Finch, a 57-year-old Democrat from neighboring Lee County.
Republican David Rouzer gets another chance to win the congressional district he lost two years ago by a razor-thin margin to Democrat Mike McIntyre. Rouzer won Tuesday’s Republican primary against Woody White and Chris Andrade in the 7th Congressional District. McIntyre, a Lumberton native, is retiring rather than campaign again in the district, which favors Republicans.
U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield won the Democratic primary in northeast North Carolina’s 1st District over Dan Whittacre. He’ll face either Republican Arthur Rich or Brent Shypulefski.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx beat Philip Doyle to again take the Republican Party nomination in the 5th District in northwest North Carolina. Democrats appear headed toward a runoff election in July to choose between Joshua Brannon and Gardenia Henley after no candidates were able to win at least 40 percent of the vote in a four-candidate field. Second-place finishers must call for the runoff.
Baptist minister Mark Walker and Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr., son of powerful state Senate leader Phil Berger, also have a looming July runoff. The winner faces Democrat Laura Fjeld, a retired University of North Carolina system administrator, for the 6th District seat open after incumbent GOP Rep. Howard Coble’s decision to retire after 30 years in office.
Former Charlotte television anchor and radio personality Vince Coakley won the Republican primary in the heavily Democratic 12th District over church pastor Leon Threatt.
State Rep. Alma Adams beat six other Democrats in two races, one to complete former 12th District Congressman Mel Watt’s term through the end of this year and a second for a new, two-year term starting next year. Watt resigned to become director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the groups that own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages.
In the 13th District, which stretches east and north from Raleigh, Brenda Cleary won the Democratic primary and will face incumbent U.S. Rep. George Holding.
U.S. Reps. Robert Pittenger and Patrick McHenry won Republican primary elections in their Charlotte-area districts.