N.C. Rep. Nelson Dollar spent more than $230,000 so far this election cycle to defeat Republican primary challenger Mark Villee on Tuesday, according to campaign finance reports.
Dollar, 54, who is seeking his seventh term, defeated Villee with 7,811 votes or 56 percent of the vote in his western Wake County district, according to unofficial results. Villee had 6,193 votes, or 44 percent of the vote.
Dollar will now face Democrat Jennifer Ferrell and Libertarian Brian Irving in November.
“I think that the voters rejected the negative advertising tonight,” Dollar said Tuesday. He was referring to the TV and radio ads run by Villee, titled “Change for a Dollar,” that attacked his voting record. The ads took aim at Dollar’s role as the top House budget writer, saying he supported “millions in wasteful spending.”
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“I think they sent a resounding message, rejecting the negative attacks from the opposition,” Dollar said. “I think they saw through that, and I appreciate their continued support.”
Dollar, a media and public relations consultant, fired back at Villee with his own ads that defended his record at the state level and highlighted his efforts to cut taxes, eliminate waste and balance the state budget.
Villee, 58, the owner of a home inspection business and a former 36th District party chairman, was Dollar’s first Republican primary challenger since he was elected to the state legislature in 2004.
The district stretches across western Wake County, including Cary, Holly Springs, Apex, Fuquay-Varina and Garner.
Dollar raised nearly 10 times as much than Villee this election cycle, which began Jan. 1, 2015. He received nearly $300,000, according to reports that ran through Feb. 29.
Many of his donations came from dentists, optometrists and others in the health-care field, as well as various health-care PACs. Other notable donors include $250 from former Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly; $2,000 from David Martin, developer of Cary’s South Hills Mall; and $5,100 each from SAS CEO James Goodnight and his wife, Ann.
Dollar spent about $230,000 as of Feb. 29, including $188,000 in January and February. More than $160,000 of his early 2016 expenditures went toward advertising, including TV and radio ads and mailers.
Villee amassed about $32,000, as of Feb. 29, but had a vocal supporter on his side.
One of Villee’s biggest supporters included Bob Luddy, one of Raleigh’s biggest conservative political donors. Luddy and his wife, Maria, each contributed $5,100 to Villee’s campaign.
In January, Luddy filed paperwork to create StopNelsonDollar.com, and he immediately donated $40,000 to the new committee. He said he wanted to see Dollar defeated because of this year’s House budget proposal.
Kevin Tatum, a consultant for StopNelsonDollar.com, said Tuesday in a statement that he hoped the campaign was a ‘serious wake-up call’ for Dollar.
He added that Dollar “can count on us being back this fall with an even more aggressive campaign if he doesn’t clean up his self-serving, big-spending ways.”
The committee received an additional $50,000 in February from Factum, a limited liability company with a listed Chapel Hill address.
N.C. Sen. Bob Rucho’s candidate committee also donated $5,000 to Dollar’s opponent. Rucho, a Mecklenburg Republican, is co-chairman of the Senate finance committee. His term expires this year, and he is not seeking re-election.
As of Feb. 29, Villee spent most of his $21,000 in expenditures on advertising – about $19,000 toward mailers, TV ads and radio ads.
Ferrell, 37, a former Apex Town Council candidate, defeated Woodie Cleary, 61, a retired N.C. Department of Revenue cyber security expert, Tuesday with 7,862 votes or 75 percent of the vote. Cleary had 2,577 votes, or 25 percent.
“I’m extremely pleased with the outcome,” Ferrell said Wednesday. “A lot of people are ready for the 12-year, six-term incumbent to be out of his seat.”
Both Ferrell and Dollar said they plan to avoid the negative advertising that has defined the District 36 race so far.
“I will continue to do what I have done, which is talk about my record and talk about how we moved North Carolina forward,” Dollar said. “We want to continue to build jobs in this state, to improve our education system and to make sure the quality of life in North Carolina continues to be among the best of any state.”
Staff writer Colin Campbell contributed to this report.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608, @KTrogdon
House District 36
Nelson Dollar (i) 55.78%
Mark Villee 44.22%
Woodie Cleary 24.69%
Jennifer Ferrell 75.31%
20 precincts of 20 reporting