RALEIGH — Nearly one-third of state lawmakers will face no challengers to their election bids this fall.
When the filing period ended at noon on Friday, 12 members of N.C. Senate learned they had effectively been re-elected. Eight Republicans and four Democrats will face no opposition, including Sen. Floyd McKissick of Durham.
On the other side, 43 members of the N.C. House of Representatives will run unopposed, a split pool of 22 Republicans and 21 Democrats.
Democrats Paul Luebke of Durham, Darren Jackson of Raleigh, and Republican Paul Stam of Apex, are among those who will get a pass.
But at the top of the ballot, the crowded race for the U.S. Senate is now overflowing with candidates. Two new candidates – a Democrat and a Republican – joined the race in the last hours before Friday’s noon deadline, pushing the final tally of contenders to 13, including incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan. Eight Republicans, three Democrats and two Libertarians will compete in the May 6 primary.
The glaring number of uncontested races is higher than it was in 2012, indicating more politicians are choosing not to run in areas where winning seems impossible, said David McLennan, a political analyst and professor at William Peace University in Raleigh.
“It really points out, to me, the problem with redistricting,” McLennan said, adding that the number of competitive races in the state has dwindled to between 10 and 12 percent.
“From a citizen’s perspective, there are going to be a lot of races in North Carolina where simply there are no choices,” he said. “It feeds into that cynicism that people have that politics just isn’t working.”
Other races on the ballot are adding interest to the election season. Here’s a breakdown of the campaigns ahead:
Races to watch: The congressional races should provide plenty of action, particularly in District 2 which includes parts of nine counties including Wake. Incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers is facing a tea party challenge from Frank Roche in what could be her most significant test yet. Meanwhile the Democratic primary is drawing national attention because of the entrance of former “American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken who is running against former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and Toni Morris.
Two Raleigh-area state Senate seats also may prove to be among the most hotly contested and most expensive in the state. Republican Chad Barefoot, elected in 2012 after a $1 million campaign push, faces Democrat Sarah Crawford. And the open seat to replace outgoing Sen. Neal Hunt of Raleigh features two prominent names: Republican Jim Fulghum, a current House lawmaker, and Democrat Tom Bradshaw, a former Raleigh mayor.
The closest race in the state will likely be a local contest: Republican Rep. Tom Murry of Morrisville must defend his state House seat against Cary Town Councilwoman Gale Adcock in a district that is pretty much a 50-50 Democrat/Republican split.
Will GOP keep legislative control? Most likely. House and Senate Democratic leaders essentially concede Republicans will maintain the majority, built with legislative districts that strongly favor the party.
But Democrats are aiming to break the GOP supermajority in each chamber. To do so, Democrats need to win six more seats in the House and four more in the Senate. The numbers are within the margins in competitive districts, meaning Democrats have a chance.
The factor working against them: money. House and Senate Republicans have about a 3 to 1 cash advantage, if not more, against Democrats.
Headed to a runoff: The big question is whether the Republican primary for U.S. Senate will advance to a July runoff, a wildcard that could change the dynamic of the contest.
But two races appear certain contenders for overtime: The race to replace retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Howard Coble of Greensboro in District 6 and the campaign to fill a seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte in District 12. Coble’s seat, which leans Republican, drew nine GOP candidates. And Watt’s seat, which is strongly Democratic, attracted seven contenders.
The threshold to win outright is 40 percent.
Surprises: Tom Bradshaw’s decision to campaign for the state Senate turned heads. In addition to running Raleigh from 1971-73, Bradshaw most recently served as executive director of the State Ports Authority and is the former head of the Department of Transportation. The investment banker is a longtime Raleigh player with deep connections to help his bid.
Another interesting twist: A husband-and-wife Republican team is campaigning for office in Orange County. Dave Carter, a losing candidate from 2012, is challenging Democratic Rep. Verla Insko and Mary Lopez-Carter is taking on Sen. Valerie Foushee, who was appointed to the job in September.
Robert “RP” Holding III, a wealthy businessman, prominent Republican and brother of U.S. Rep. George Holding, said Thursday night he was considering challenging Ellmers in the primary. By Friday, he had opted against it. Instead he pledged to start a super PAC aimed at taking on career politicians