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NC ratings: Primary results could help Democrats compete

Senate race and up to four House seats are worth watching

Republican nominee Bo Hines is in a Toss-up race in North Carolina's 13th District, according to Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.
Republican nominee Bo Hines is in a Toss-up race in North Carolina's 13th District, according to Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. (Allison Joyce/Getty Images file photo)

ANALYSIS — With redistricting complete and the primaries in the books, the stage is nearly set for a quartet of key House races in North Carolina. 

At the top of the ballot, the GOP race for the U.S. Senate started with a bang, and with former Gov. Pat McCrory as the front-runner. But it ended in unspectacular fashion with Rep. Ted Budd winning comfortably with the help of an endorsement from former President Donald Trump and massive spending by the Club for Growth. Budd will face former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley in a race that Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates Lean Republican.

In the state’s highest-profile House primary, embattled GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn has lost renomination to state Sen. Chuck Edwards in the 11th District. The race is rated Solid Republican in November. 

In the 4th District, which doesn’t have an incumbent because Democratic Rep. David E. Price is not running for reelection, state Sen. Valerie Foushee won a competitive race for the Democratic nomination over Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam. “American Idol” Season Two runner-up Clay Aiken finished third with 7 percent. President Joe Biden would have won by 35 points in 2020, so the race is rated Solid Democratic in November. 

[More House race ratings | Initial Senate race ratings]

Overall, Republicans have an 8-to-5 advantage in the House delegation. The GOP has a couple of takeover opportunities and the wind at its back. But a flawed nominee in a key district means Democrats could actually gain a seat in the Tar Heel State, and the delegation could be eight Republicans and six Democrats, or even a seven-seven split, next year.

1st District (Open; G.K. Butterfield, D, not seeking reelection)

The primary outcome made this a more challenging pickup opportunity for Republicans. The GOP nominated Sandy Smith, who carries enough baggage that some party strategists were concerned about her winning the primary before it even took place. She’ll face Democratic state Sen. Don Davis in the general election. Since Joe Biden would have carried this newly drawn district by 7 points in 2020, it should be within reach for Republicans in this political environment. But Democrats have a fighting chance with Smith as the nominee. Rating: Lean Democratic.

6th District (Kathy Manning, D)

Even though Biden would have won this newly drawn district by 11 points in 2020, Republicans should have an opportunity to defeat Manning in this political environment. But GOP strategists admit this is currently a stretch for the party. Republicans nominated Army veteran Christian Castelli. But he had $61,000 in the bank on April 27, compared with Manning’s $1.1 million. Rating: Likely Democratic.

13th District (Open; GOP seat)

The general election is set between 26-year-old Republican Bo Hines and Democratic state Sen. Wiley Nickel. Hines, a former wide receiver at N.C. State, had Trump’s endorsement and finished first in a crowded field that included former Rep. Renee Ellmers (she finished fifth). Nickel, an attorney who also worked in the Obama White House, cleared 50 percent in the five-candidate Democratic primary, according to unofficial results. Biden would have won the district by just 2 points in 2020, so this is the type of seat Republicans should be winning in this environment. Rating: Toss-up. 

14th District (Open; New)

After an aborted run for the U.S. Senate, it looks like state Sen. Jeff Jackson is on his way to Capitol Hill after all. Jackson won the Democratic primary in this new Charlotte-based district with more than 80 percent. He’ll face Republican Pat Harrigan in November. Biden would have won the seat by 16 points in 2020, and Jackson had a $857,000 to $101,000 cash advantage over Harrigan on April 27. Rating: Likely Democratic

Races rated Solid Republican

Races rated Solid Democratic

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.

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