The filing period for 2016 elections closed on Monday. Election Day for the primary is March 15.
Here’s a glance at several key primaries worth watching closely by Patrick Gannon of The Insider, a state government news service.
House District 9 Democrats (Pitt County): Former Rep. Brian Brown, a Republican, resigned from this seat earlier this year, and Republican Greg Murphy was appointed to serve out his term. But Democrats think they could take this seat and have two candidates vying for the right to challenge Murphy in November. Brian Farkas, who works at a Greenville architecture firm, will face Walter Gaskins, a member of the Pitt County school board, in the Democratic primary. The Greenville area often has intriguing legislative match-ups, and 2016 should be no different – in the primary and general elections.
House District 20 Republicans (New Hanover County): With GOP Rep. Rick Catlin bowing out of the legislature after next year and no Democratic candidate in this race, this House seat will be decided in the GOP primary. It pits political newcomer and businesswoman Holly Grange, a member of the N.C. State Ports Authority board of directors, against New Hanover County school board member Tammy Covil. This race is already generating headlines in the Wilmington area and isn’t expected to be a friendly, winner-take-all primary battle.
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House District 67 Republicans (Montgomery and Stanly counties): Republican Rep. Justin Burr has been in the news lately criticizing the House leadership under House Speaker Tim Moore. Burr, a bail bondsman from Albemarle in his fourth term, faces a primary challenge from Lane Burris, a former captain of the Stanly County Sheriff’s Office who helped oversee the county jail. Insiders say Burris might get financial backing from establishment Republicans to try to oust Burr. This has all the makings. The winner will face a Democrat in November, but the district likely will stay in Republican hands, making the GOP primary especially important.
House District 118 Democrats (Haywood, Madison and Yancey counties): Democrats are excited about the possibilities in this district, with two candidates they believe are highly qualified to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Michele Presnell of Burnsville. In the Democratic primary, former Madison County Commissioner Reese Steen squares off against Rhonda Cole Schandevel, a Haywood County school board member. Interestingly, Steen is a dentist and Schandevel is a dental hygienist. The winner will face Presnell in November in a district that is potentially winnable for Democrats.
Senate District 11 Republicans (Johnston, Nash and Wilson counties): Three-term Republican Sen. Buck Newton is leaving to run for attorney general. Seeking to replace him are Republicans Benton Sawrey and Rick Horner, both legitimate contenders. Sawrey, of Clayton, is a young attorney and Johnston County native. Horner, of Wilson, is a commercial insurance agent and former school board member. Both are active in the community and have the potential to raise money. The Republican primary winner should have a good chance against Democrat Albert Pacer in this district that favors the GOP.
Senate District 16 Democrats (Wake County): Democratic Sen. Josh Stein of Raleigh has held this seat for four terms but is abandoning it to run for attorney general. Seeking the Democratic nomination here are Ellis Hankins, former executive director of the N.C. League of Municipalities, and Jay Chaudhuri, a lawyer with extensive ties to state government, including stints working for Treasurer Janet Cowell and Attorney General Roy Cooper.
Both candidates should raise significant campaign cash to help get their messages out. The winner will face Republican Eric Weaver in November, but the district strongly favors Democrats.
Senate District 36 Republicans (Cabarrus and Union counties): It’s not surprising with the retirement of Republican Sen. Fletcher Hartsell after a quarter century in the General Assembly that four Republicans signed up to replace him. One of those candidates is Paul Newton, the former Duke Energy state president for North Carolina, who retired earlier this year. Also in the race are Parish Moffitt, a pilot and Navy veteran; Scott Aumuller, an anesthesiologist; and Amy Blake, an educator. Any primary race with four candidates is intriguing, and all four seem like legitimate contenders. The nominee will face the winner of a Democratic primary in November, but the district is strong for Republicans.
Senate District 44 Republicans (Gaston, Iredell and Lincoln counties): This could be the one GOP Senate primary where an incumbent could lose. Two-term incumbent Sen. David Curtis, an optometrist from Denver, is being challenged by Chris Carney, a former Mooresville commissioner. Carney filled the unexpired term of former Sen. Jim Forrester after he died in 2011, but lost to Curtis in a runoff for the Republican nomination for that seat in 2012. Curtis likely will be supported by the Republican Senate establishment, while Carney is taking an interesting primary approach by bashing the current Republican-led legislature. This should be a good rematch, with the winner facing Libertarian Nic Haag in November.