This midterm is a crucial one for North Carolina, and for Congress.
Due to population growth, the state gained a 14th seat this year, which is situated in Mecklenburg County. There are also no incumbents in races for the 13th, 11th, 4th and 1st districts.
The 13th is open since its current representative, Republican Ted Budd, is running for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat. In the 11th, incumbent Madison Cawthorn was defeated in the primary after just one term on Capitol Hill – in which he made a lot of noise and not so many friends. And in the 1st and 4th, two longtime Democratic Congressmen – G.K. Butterfield and David Price, respectively – are not seeking reelection after decades of serving North Carolinians in Washington; Price spent 17 terms in Congress, while Butterfield was there for nine. If you combine their tenures with that of retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr, that’s 80 years of Capitol Hill experience leaving the North Carolina delegation this election cycle.
Here are the congressional races we’re watching this year, plus notes on a few other races.
- Bo Hines (R)
- Wiley Nickel (D)
This district has been newly reconfigured — and essentially relocated — by redistricting.
When Budd last won the seat in 2020, it included suburbs and small towns between Charlotte and Greensboro — like Salisbury, Lexington, and Asheboro — then snaked north between Greensboro and Durham to include places like Burlington, Mebane, Graham, and Roxboro.
Now, the new 13th District is Triangle-centric. It includes the southern half of Wake, all of Johnston, and portions of Harnett and Wayne Counties — spanning from Apex to Mount Olive. The race pits State Senator Wiley Nickel against political newcomer and Donald Trump-endorsed Bo Hines.
Many viewed Hines as the next Madison Cawthorn, but he has attempted to distance himself from Cawthorn and some other hard right stances, like abortion. In late August, Hines scrubbed his campaign website of all mentions of abortion and a sentence that read, in part, “that life begins at conception and that we must protect the rights of the unborn.” The 27-year-old Hines is a former N.C. State football player and a graduate of Yale University and Wake Forest School of Law. He has never held elected office before but previously worked for Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and Republican South Dakota U.S. Senator Mike Rounds. Hines told the Washington Post that he believes the 2020 Presidential Election was stolen. Additionally, Hines has not passed the North Carolina bar exam.
Nickel, 46, has been the State Senator for North Carolina’s 16th District since 2019. He’s a California native with degrees from Tulane and Pepperdine, and has worked for former Vice President Al Gore.
Nickel was also a staffer in President Barack Obama’s White House from 2008 to 2012. He garnered Obama’s endorsement for the General Assembly in 2018. In some ways, Nickel – despite having one of the more progressive voting records among Democrats in the state Senate – has tried to bill himself as a moderate candidate, saying in a campaign ad that he will “stand up to extremes in both parties to get things done.”
Hines and Nickel have not yet agreed to a debate, but they have both publicly taken aim at each other’s stances and qualifications for office, and they’ve bickered over which candidate actually lives in the district.
This race is expected to be competitive and expensive. Prepare yourself for an inundation of campaign ads if you live in the Triangle or surrounding areas. And expect national leadership from both parties to stump for their respective candidates. Hines appeared at a Trump rally in Wilmington in September.
- Don Davis (D)
- Sandy Smith (R)
This was a competitive primary on both sides, but it's unclear if the general election will be a tight race.
Emerging from the field of eight Republicans was Sandy Smith, who has garnered endorsements from the far right side of the party, such as General Michael Flynn, Joe Arpaio, Roger Stone, Cawthorn, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, and yes, Trump. Smith is an East Carolina University graduate and this is the second time she has won the district’s Republican nomination; she lost to Butterfield in the 2020 general election by a fair margin, getting just 45% of the vote. At a rally in Wilmington in September, Trump gave Smith his “total endorsement.”
It is also worth noting that three people have accused Smith of domestic violence. These claims were highlighted recently in a campaign ad paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Smith has denied the allegations.
Butterfield has endorsed Democrat Don Davis as his successor. He won a primary that featured four candidates, including Erica Smith, a former State Senator who ran for U.S. Senate in 2020.
Davis is a former Air Force officer, a former mayor of Snow Hill, N.C., and has represented the 5th District in the North Carolina Senate since 2013. He holds degrees from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Central Michigan University and ECU.
The district encompasses a wide swath of the northeastern corner of the state. It borders Virginia, grazes the Inner Banks, and includes towns like Rocky Mount, Wilson, and Elizabeth City. It’s about 42% Black and 10% Hispanic. It’s a district that leans slightly left, and one that has been redrawn several times.
Earlier this year, Butterfield called his district “a toss-up” because of redistricting, and he told The Assembly that Smith can win it.
Still, a Republican hasn’t held this seat since 1883, and it is also a district that has voted Democrat for president in each of the last six elections.
Biden won 54% of the vote there in 2020. Additionally, this is a seat that has been held by a Black representative for the past 30 years. When Eva Clayton won it in 1992, she became the first Black person to serve North Carolina in Congress since 1898.
Also of note…
- In David Price’s soon-to-be former Durham-anchored 4th District, Valerie Foushee is seen as the clear favorite in a race that does not include an incumbent for the first time since 1972. Foushee, who has served in the State Senate since 2013, won in a crowded primary that included former American Idol contestant Clay Aiken and Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam. The Republican nominee in the race is Courtney Geels, an emergency room nurse, and political newcomer.
- Voters in the 11th District ousted the controversial Cawthorn during the primary and conservative Chuck Edwards is expected to replace him. Edwards is facing a challenge from Democrat Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who raised more than $1.4 million in the primary to win the nomination out of six candidates. She is an Asheville resident, a two-time Ivy League graduate, a Buncombe County Commissioner, and a minister. Still, a win for her would be viewed as a massive stunner in this solidly red district.
- In that brand-new 14th District, former state lawmaker Jeff Jackson (D), is viewed as the frontrunner against Pat Harrigan (R).