Incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre easily retained his District 7 congressional seat for a seventh two-year term Tuesday, crushing Republican challenger Will Breazeale of White Lake by a more than two-to-one margin, garnering 69 percent to 31 percent.
The unofficial vote count was 211,960 for McIntyre, and 95,987 for Breazeale. Robeson County favored McIntyre with a vote of 33,398 to 5,574, giving him 86 percent of the ballots.
McIntyre was unavailable for comment this morning.
All the incumbents were re-elected, except Republican Robin Hayes in District 8. Democrats now hold eight of North Carolina’s 13 congressional seats.
Breazeale mounted a game campaign for a time, but personal issues and a lack of campaign funding doomed his bid to unseat the popular Democrat. McIntyre was able to afford a last-minute blitz of advertisements, including on television, while Breazeale, a veteran of the Iraq war, was missing in action.
In retaining his seat, McIntyre touted his record of steering billions of tax dollars into the 10 counties making up District 7 and creating economic opportunities.
Breazeale promised to be the most accessible congressman in the history of the district, but ultimately was unable to build on his core differences as a Republican because McIntyre is a conservative Democrat in a district that is overwhelmingly Democrat but generally conservative.
In recent months, Congress enacted into law a bill sponsored by McIntyre that created the Southeast Crescent Economic Commission, which put a federal focus on jobs, economic development, worker training, health care and education, as well as meeting transportation needs in District 7.
McIntyre also announced that $679 million in construction improvements had been approved for eastern North Carolina’s military bases and that he had helped secure more than $1.5 billion for military construction projects for our eastern North Carolina military bases since his election in 1996.
McIntyre has held the seat since the retirement of Fayetteville’s Charlie Rose in 1995.
McIntyre’s victory came after Lumberton police subdued a man damaging McIntyre’s office at Lumberton City Hall on Tuesday afternoon. Police said Michael Locklear went into the office about 4 p.m. and began breaking things and knocking items off bookshelves, according to the Fayetteville Observer.
City Manager Wayne Horne said McIntyre’s office has had problems with Locklear in the past. Locklear is being held at the Robeson County jail under a $150,000 bail.
Elsewhere in North Carolina, Democratic high school teacher Larry Kissell defeated Hayes in District 8, which spans Charlotte to Fayetteville. Kissell and Hayes’ race was the closest of the 13 contested U.S. House seats, according to election data. Kissell had won 54 percent of the vote with 90 percent of precincts reporting.
Kissell came within 329 votes of unseating Hayes two years ago despite his long-shot, low-budget bid — and national Democrats took notice. The party backed Kissell this year with hundreds of thousands of dollars, including a television advertising campaign.
Heath Shuler, a former NFL quarterback and University of Tennessee star, won re-election for the first time Tuesday against Asheville city Councilman Carl Mumpower.
“I kept my word. I did what I said I would do and I think the people saw that,” Shuler said.
In 2006, Shuler had the financial backing of national Democrats but Kissell’s campaign relied on door knocking and featured a pet goat named for a a free-trade deal he opposed. Yet it was enough for the former textile mill worker to threaten Hayes, an heir to the Cannon family’s textile fortune.
The son of a teacher and an Army veteran, Kissell left his job at a textile mill in the late 1990s — just before many of the state’s manufacturing companies began shuttering their doors.
As he did two years ago, Kissell focused his campaign on voters’ frustration with the economy and the lack of job opportunities in a district hit hard by the textile industry’s collapse.
“It comes down to keeping that American dream alive. That message resonated with people,” said Kissell, 57. “I’ve known all along that we have an opportunity to redirect this nation. We look forward to making the lives of the people in this district better.”
Hayes, 63, had managed to keep control of the Democrat-leaning district for a decade by emphasizing his Christian values and a traditional conservative platform of lower taxes and strong families. He developed robust relationships with his constituents.
But he spent the final days of this year’s closely watched race backpedaling on comments he made before a rally for GOP presidential nominee John McCain when he said “liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God.” Hayes initially denied making the comment, but faced with an audio recording of his speech, he acknowledged a mistake.
Andrew Duke, Hayes’ chief of staff, said Democratic President-elect Barack Obama’s success in North Carolina contributed to Republican losses in North Carolina. Besides losing the 8th District, Democratic state Sen. Kay Hagan defeated incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Dole.
Hayes didn’t rule out running for office again but said he would offer Kissell any help he needs. Kissell said Hayes was “very generous” on the phone.
A tight race was expected in the 10th District, but Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry easily held off former prosecutor and decorated Navy veteran Daniel Johnson. The district, which spans the largely rural foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, and is arguably the most Republican-leaning in the state.
The Navy awarded Johnson its highest peacetime award, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, after he lost his legs when he rescued a fellow shipmate who was ensnared in ropes on his ship.
McHenry was elected at age 29 in 2004, and was the youngest member of the 110th Congress. He is a frequent and noted critic of Democrats, an effort he said stems from a desire to hold the party in power accountable.
Johnson, 32, had called McHenry’s style of politics “troubling” and promised to be less divisive if elected. The Democrat resigned as a Wake County prosecutor in 2007, and moved back to his hometown of Hickory to challenge McHenry.
McHenry said Tuesday the Republican Party has to reform its message.
“We have to get focused on delivering for people,” he said. “The fact is that we are a moderate to conservative nation. Republicans have to tone their message and return to core principles.”