Politics & Government

Former Sen. Bob Rucho loses his bid to return to NC General Assembly

Former Sen. Bob Rucho, a chief architect of GOP tax and election laws, failed in his bid Tuesday night to return to the state Senate.

The newly drawn, GOP-leaning open seat in Iredell and Yadkin counties drew a crowd of four Republican candidates. Rucho, who’s been serving on the UNC Board of Governors since leaving office in 2016, moved from Matthews to Mooresville to file for election.

But he lost to Vickie Sawyer, who received 43.8 percent of the vote to Rucho's 33.2 percent. Sawyer, a Republican Party official and planning board member in Iredell County, billed herself as the local candidate.

The other two candidates polled far behind Rucho: A.J. Daoud, a former lottery commissioner endorsed by U.S. Reps. Mark Walker and Mark Meadows, and Bill Howell, an Iredell County school board member.

Sawyer will face Democrat Beniah McMiller, who won his party's primary.

In another blow to Senate leadership, Rep. Bob Steinburg, a Chowan County Republican, was poised to defeat Clark Twiddy. Twiddy, a political newcomer, owns an Outer Banks real-estate business and had backing from several key GOP Senate leaders and retiring Sen. Bill Cook of Beaufort County — some of whom were vocally critical of Steinburg’s work in the House.

Steinburg questioned Twiddy’s conservative credentials, pointing to past campaign donations to Democrats like Gov. Roy Cooper and former Senate leader Marc Basnight.

Steinburg received 58 percent of the vote. He'll face Democrat Cole Phelps in the competitive district in November.

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In other primaries for open legislative seats with no incumbents:

Rep. Sam Watford, R-Davidson, came up short in his bid to move to the Senate after two terms in the House, seeking a seat left open by the retirement of Sen. Cathy Dunn, R-Davidson. Eddie Gallimore defeated Watford with about 56 percent of the vote. He’s a political newcomer who owns a real estate and construction business. He'll face Democrat Cheraton Love in November in the conservative district.

Rep. Carl Ford, a three-term House legislator from China Grove and one of the chamber’s most conservative members, became his party’s nominee for Senate District 33 with 60 percent of the vote over opponent Bill Sorensen. Ford filed for the open Senate seat after redistricting left him double-bunked with Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus. Sorensen is a high school teacher from Stanly County. The district consists of Rowan and Stanly counties.

Former Rep. Roger Younts lost to Davidson County Commissioner Steve Jarvis Tuesday evening in a Republican primary to fill the House seat vacated by Watford. Jarvis had 67 percent of the vote in the Davidson County district. He'll take on Democrat Wendy Sellars in the conservative district.

With 50 percent of the vote, Carolyn Logan defeated three other candidates seeking the Charlotte House seat left open by the retirement of longtime Rep. Beverly Earle, D-Mecklenburg. Logan is a former law enforcement officer and the president of the Black Women’s Caucus of Charlotte Mecklenburg. She has the endorsement of Earle and the city’s powerful Black Political Caucus. Lucille Puckett, a former candidate for Charlotte mayor, came in second place, with Chance Harris and Gregory Miller trailing far behind.

Eddy Goodwin, a former state ferry director and Chowan County commissioner, is the Republican nominee to replace Steinburg in House District 1. Goodwin received 55 percent of the vote against Candice Hunter, a business owner and former TV journalist. Steinburg vacated the seat in the state’s northeastern corner to run for Senate. Goodwin will face Democrat Ron Wesson of Bertie County in November in the competitive district.

Greenville City Councilwoman Kandie Smith cruised to victory in the Democratic primary for an open seat in Pitt County. The redrawn District 8 leans heavily Democratic, so Smith is now the frontrunner to win in November, although Republican Brenda Smith of Macclesfield is also running. Smith previously served as the city’s mayor and works as a training consultant for businesses. Smith received 50 percent of the vote over Mildred Council, the chairwoman of the Pitt County Board of Education and a former Greenville city councilwoman, and Ernest Reeves, a military veteran who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

Raymond Smith, a member of the Wayne County school board, won the Democratic primary to replace Rep. Larry Bell, D-Sampson, who declined to seek re-election in this left-leaning district that covers parts of Sampson and Wayne counties. Smith defeated Eugene Pearsall, a community leader in Faison who owns a trucking business. Smith will face Republican Robert Freeman of Goldsboro in November.

Longtime Republican Party leader and accountant Keith Kidwell of Chocowinity is now the frontrunner for an open seat in House District 79, a conservative-leaning district that includes Beaufort County and northern Craven County. Kidwell received 78 percent of Republican primary votes after the other GOP candidate, Jim Chesnutt, withdrew from the race in March but remained on the ballot. Kidwell faces Democrat Jerry Langley — who defeated Bryson Jones in his party’s primary — in November.

House District 7 isn’t an open seat, but Rep. Bobbie Richardson, D-Franklin, will face a tough general election in a district redrawn to be Republican-leaning. After Tuesday’s primary, her opponent will be Nash County Commissioner Lisa Barnes, who trounced former Rep. Glen Bradley in the Republican primary. Bradley once made headlines when he filed a bill that would explore creating a state currency. But Barnes raised significantly more money than Bradley and also had backing from Sen. Rick Horner, R-Nash. She received 73 percent of votes cast in Franklin and Nash counties.