On a night when Hillary Clinton made U.S. history by becoming the first female to secure a major political party presidential nomination, voters nixed an attempt by Renee Elmers of Dunn to regain her congressional seat and also sent incumbent GOP Congressman Robert Pittinger to the November ballot.
In what was a unique situation created by February’s court-ordered redistricting, the redrawn 2nd District congressional race pitted two incumbents against one another — the only race of its kind nationwide.
Three-term Congresswoman Ellmers was ousted by lawmaker George Brannon, who has served the 13th District since 2013 and won the race by a wide margin, securing more than 53 percent of the vote, compared to Ellmer’s 24 percent.
District 9, which currently covers part of Bladen County, saw Pittenger edge out Mark Harris and Todd Johnson for Pittenger’s attempt at a third term in the House. Pittenger finished with more than 9,000 votes, or almost 35 percent; Harris was on his heels with just 142 fewer votes, and Johnson finished third with 8,118 votes. The race was close throughout the night, with all three candidates leading at some point.
Harris has been hinting at a request for a recount. Barring a change, Pittinger will face Democrat Christian Cano in November.
Johnson carried Bladen, Union, Anson, Richmond and Scotland counties; Cumberland and Robeson counties favored Harris; and Pittinger swept Mecklenburg County.
“Swept,” however, is a relative term, as a dismal 8 percent of North Carolina’s 6.6 million registered voters elected to make their voices heard. Bladen County voters kept in step with the state’s poor showing, with, according to Board of Elections Director Cynthia Shaw, a little more than 8 percent participation. A total of 1,847 people showed up at Bladen County polls, and 629 people voted early or completed absentee ballots.
One possible reason for the dismal turnout is the possibility that the congressional races, which were, in the eyes of voters, the main draw to the polls, could see tanked results if the courts decide that, once again, the districts are unconstitutional. Shaw, however, does not see that as the problem.
“I’m sure that possibility crossed people’s minds,” she said, “but I just don’t think there was enough information put out there as far as educating voters (for this primary).”
She added regarding the redistricting, “I cannot answer what will happen. I know this congressional issue is still in the court system, and we have not heard anything from the state.”
In the North Carolina Supreme Court race on Tuesday, Associate Justice Bob Edmunds, who has served on the Supreme Court since 2001, and Michael Morgan, a Wake County Superior Court judge, have advanced to the general election, beating out Sabra Faires of Cary and Daniel Robertson of Advance. In the non-partisan race, Edmunds was backed by Gov. Pat McCrory and Morgan received a nod from the state Democratic Party.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.