Key U.S. House races to watch in North Carolina

Here is my short list of key and/or interesting congressional primaries to track in North Carolina this year:

7TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Candidates

Mike McIntyre, a Democrat first elected in 1996, is the incumbent. He doesn’t face a primary challenger. McIntyre’s name was floated as a possible gubernatorial candidate for Democrats after Gov. Bev Perdue decide to retire, but he opted to seek re-election instead.

On the Republican side, three candidates are competing: Ilario Pantano, David Rouzer, and Randy Crow. Pantano and Rouzer are the top contenders. Pantano was the 2010 GOP nominee against McIntyre. He lost 54 percent to 46 percent. Rouzer is a state senator from Johnston County who is partly buoyed in his bid because the redrawn district now includes about 170,000 residents in Johnston. A recent poll shows Pantano leading Rouzer handily.

Political composition

After last year’s redistricting, the 7th district is more Republican. John McCain won the district in 2008, 52 percent to 47 percent, over Barack Obama. Under the new maps, McCain would have won 58 percent to 42 percent.

8TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Candidates

Larry Kissell, a Democrat first elected in 2008, is the incumbent. Marcus Williams, an attorney, is running in the Democratic primary against Kissell.

Five candidates have emerged on the Republican side: Scott Keadle, Vernon Robinson, John Whitley, Richard Hudson, and Fred Steen. Hudson has gotten the most GOP establishment backing, including endorsements from former U.S. Sen. Lauch Faircloth and U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx. In 2008, Hudson was campaign manager for Pat McCrory’s bid for governor, and he was chief of staff for a Texas congressman in 2009.

Political composition

The district is significantly more Republican after redistricting. In 2008, Barack Obama won the district, 52 percent to 47 percent, over John McCain. Under the new maps, McCain would have won 58 percent to Obama’s 42 percent.

9TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Candidates

The district is an open seat after Sue Myrick, a Republican first elected in 1994, decided to retire this year. Eleven candidates are vying on the Republican side: Dan Barry, Andy Dulin, Jim Pendergraph, Ric Killian, Ken Leonczyk, Richard Lynch, Michael Steinberg, Michael Shaffer, Edwin Peacock. The leading contenders are Pendergraph, who was endorsed by Myrick, and Pittinger. Pendergraph is the former Democratic sheriff in Mecklenburg County. Pittinger is a former state senator who was the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in 2008. He lost to Democrat Walter Dalton.

The lone candidate in the Democrats’ corner is Jennifer Roberts, a Mecklenburg County commissioner.

Political composition

The district is slightly less Republican after the last round of redistricting. John McCain won the district in 2008 by a 54.6 percent to 44.6 percent margin. Under the new maps, McCain would have won 54.1 percent to 45.0 percent.

11TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

Candidates

The district is an open seat after Heath Shuler, a Democrat first elected in 2006, decided to retire this year. Three Democrats have filed to run: Tom Hill, Cecil Bothwell, and Hayden Rogers. Rogers is Shuler’s chief of staff and has won Shuler’s endorsement.

On the Republican side, eight candidates have filed: Susan Harris, Kenny West, Ethan Wingfield, Spence Campbell, Jeff Hunt, Vance Patterson, Mark Meadows, and Chris Petrella. Meadows has gained the most established backing and recently won the Buncombe County GOP straw poll.

Political composition

Judging by results from the presidential election, this district is now the most Republican in the state. McCain won the 11th district, 52 percent to 47 percent, in 2008 over Obama. In light of the redrawn boundaries, McCain’s advantage would have jumped to 58 percent to 40 percent.

13TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT

The district is an open seat after Brad Miller, a Democrat first elected in 2002, decided to retire this year. Miller weighed a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor in February but ultimately decided to retire instead.

Two Democrats are seeking the nomination: Bernard Holliday, a minister, and Charles Malone, who ran against N.C. Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, in 2010.

On the Republican side, three candidates are vying: George Holding, Paul Coble, and Bill Randall. Holding is the former U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of North Carolina, well known in political circles for prosecuting former U.S. Sen. John Edwards and former Gov. Mike Easley. Coble is a former Raleigh mayor and current chairmen of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. Randall ran for the seat in 2010 but lost to Miller.

Political composition

This district saw one of the most dramatic flips in partisan makeup after redistricting. In 2008, Obama won the district 59 percent to 40 percent over McCain. Under the new maps, McCain would win 54 percent to 45 percent.

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