Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. is likely to win his GOP primary runoff next week, and that will put him in a strong position to beat Democrat Laura Fjeld in the November general election – so goes the assessment of political consultant John Davis.
Berger is in a second primary on Tuesday with fellow Republican Mark Walker, a former minister in Greensboro. Berger led a crowded field of GOP contenders in the May primary, but fell short of the 40 percent needed to win the 6th District race outright.
Walker has had to clarify his position on amnesty for immigrants who are in the country illegally, which he says he opposes. He has been the target of mailers by a super PAC supporting Berger hitting him on the issue, according to the Greensboro News & Record.
“A candidate seen as a flip-flopper on an issue as important to Republicans as ‘illegal immigration’ is a candidate out of favor with conservative hardliners, the most likely voters to turn out in a GOP primary runoff,” Davis writes in his latest newsletter analyzing North Carolina politics.
The Greensboro newspaper reports Keep Conservatives United has spent about $200,000 in the campaign primary and runoff. Berger has raised twice as much money as Walker in the latest reporting period, according to the News & Record.
Davis goes on to note that the 6th Congressional District – home to longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, who will retire after this year – is safe territory: The N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation has rated it “strongly Republican.”
The district includes portions of Guilford, Alamance, Durham, Granvilleand Orange counties, and all of Caswell, Person, Rockingham, Surry and Stokes counties.
That adds up to victory for the Republican candidate who faces Fjeld, a former general counsel for the UNC system, Davis surmises.
Fjeld’s campaign manager, Andrew Grunwald, doesn’t see it that way.
“We believe that our message is resonating throughout the district, as people are tired of the same old party labels and partisan bickering,” Grunwald said Monday. “Both of these men represent everything that’s wrong with Washington, while Laura will be a fighter for the middle class.”
As a sad commentary on voter participation, Davis calculates that the turnout for the second primary – traditionally much lower than the main primary – could amount to no more than 12,000 to 14,000 voters.
Voters will get one more chance to hear from the candidates when Berger and Walker face off in a televised debate from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday on Time Warner Cable News, and on the News 14 website. Anchor Tim Boyum will moderate.