Well-funded challengers have turned several North Carolina congressional districts into battleground races and attracted national attention, including visits by President Donald Trump.
The races that could determine control of Congress include Democrat Linda Coleman’s challenge of Republican Rep. George Holding of Raleigh in the 2nd district that includes parts or all of Wake, Franklin, Harnett, Johnston, Nash and Wilson counties.. That race, which also includes Libertarian Jeff Matemu, is expected to be close.
But in other Triangle-area races, incumbents are in strong position to return to Washington, having outraised their challengers, who in many cases are first-time candidates.
Even without running TV ads or mailing out flyers, some challengers have garnered attention on social media.
In one case, Republicans are distancing themselves from a challenger who they say went too far.
Republican challenger Steve Von Loor has used his Twitter account, which has almost 5,000 followers, to attack incumbent David Price and other Democrats in the 4th, which includes Raleigh, Cary, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough and Mebane. Libertarian candidate Barbara Howe is also running in the district.
Another of Von Loor’s recurring targets on Twitter is Abdul El-Sayed, a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Michigan.
El-Sayed called U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley cowardly and spineless for walking out on a Palestinian speaker on Twitter after news broke of Haley’s plans to resign. In Von Loor’s tweet, he said that “under Sharia Law ‘Women are Deemed Lacking in Faith and Intelligence’” and included a picture of what appears to be a woman in hijab buried in dirt and being stoned. That photo is actually from a protest in Brussels, and was originally taken by Reuters in 2005.
The quote he used is from a hadith, or a saying made by the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and the hadiths are often taken out of context. Shariah is Islamic law. Contacted by The News & Observer, Von Loor repeated what he said in follow-up posts on Twitter.
The lead imam at the Islamic Association of Raleigh disputed Von Loor’s characterization of Islamic teachings.
“This claim regarding the status of women in Islam relies on a common misinterpretation of a religious text, by inappropriately stripping it of its context in language, history, and religion,” Imam Mohamed AbuTaleb told The N&O in an email. “Men and women are seen as spiritually and theologically equal in Islamic teachings, and the protection of women’s rights is one of the reoccurring themes in Islamic scripture.”
Charles Hellwig, the chairman of the Wake County GOP, said in an email that Von Loor’s coments about Shariah “do not reflect the views of the 4th District NCGOP, nor the views of the county parties within the 4th District. I understand his post was a reaction to an inappropriate post attacking Ambassador Nikki Haley, but neither should have been made. We can all do better than this.”
Similarly, Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, said in an email, “We also condemn those comments, and they do not reflect the position of our party, candidates or voters.”
Based on information from the Federal Election Commission, Von Loor has either not filed any finance papers, or he has raised less than $5,000. The same goes for his Libertarian opponent, Howe. Price has raised almost $612,000 for this election cycle.
Another advantage on Price’s side is that he has been the U.S. representative for the 4th district since 1987, save for one term from 1995 to 1997 when he lost re-election as Republicans swept into power. Leading up to that, Price was a professor of policy at Duke University. Von Loor said Price is out of touch after so long in Congress.
“Everyone knows David Price delivers for the Fourth District and for our state,” wrote Robert Howard, communications director for the North Carolina Democratic Party, in an email. “North Carolina needs proven progressive leaders like David in Congress who (get) things done, and we’re confident he will deliver for us again this November.”
Price is the ranking member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on transportation, housing and urban development. If Democrats take the House, Price will become the subcommittee chairman, a powerful post for deciding spending priorities.
Von Loor, who grew up in Ecuador, is the CEO and founder of Von Loor Language Solutions, according to his LinkedIn account. In addition, Von Loor was a member of Gov. Pat McCrory’s Advisory Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs.
Howe was a homemaker when she joined the Libertarian Party in 1976, according to her campaign site. Howe has a long history of running for public positions, including unsuccessful runs for U.S. Senate, governor and a state House seat.
1st Congressional District
In the 1st district, another Democratic incumbent is facing a Republican businessman. G.K. Butterfield, who has represented the district since 2004, is facing off against Roger Allison, a first-time candidate.
The district includes Greenville, Wilson and Durham, and it encompasses most of the northeastern part of the state.
Before taking the seat in 2004, Butterfield was a N.C. Supreme Court justice. Butterfield is a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and remains a member of the influential group, which includes 48 African-American members of Congress.
Allison, who lives in Durham, helps launch start-ups and grow businesses, according to information from his website.
Woodhouse said opportunities in the 1st district are limited since it is a heavily Democratic district. Butterfield won the district in 2016 with more than 68.6 percent of the vote.
“We have a solid candidate in Mr. Allison, who is making progress in District 1,” Woodhouse said.
Butterfield has greatly outraised Allison, according to the FEC. Butterfield has raised over $675,000, while Allison has raised less than $10,000.
Butterfield is known for speaking against President Donald Trump’s policies, and has also told The N&O he expects that a Democratic-controlled House could confront the impeachment of Trump.
“Representative Butterfield is a fixture in the fight against the Trump administration’s attacks on our health care, social security and medicare,” Howard said.
Allison has used Twitter to criticize Butterfield for speaking against Trump, even saying “he would not have never won if not for his minority majority district,” on Sept. 26. He’s also called Butterfield an “outspoken Trump critic.”
6th Congressional District
Walker, a Baptist pastor, was first elected to Congress in 2014. During his time in Congress, Walker is chairman of the powerful Republican Study Committee, the largest group of Republicans in the House.
Woodhouse describes Walker as a “top-tier Republican candidate.”
The 28-year-old Watts was a strategy consultant for large corporations, including IBM. Watts, who graduated from East Chapel Hill High, is a first-time candidate.
“Ryan is the fresh kind of new leadership North Carolina needs,” Howard said, the Democratic party’s communications director. Howard said Walker has refused to hold any town halls.
Walker has raised almost $1 million, according to the FEC, while Watts has raised almost $207,000.
Walker’s office filed a complaint with Capitol Police about harassment from a vocal Watts supporter on Twitter, as reported by The N&O.
7th Congressional District
Wilmington, Goldsboro, Johnston County and other parts of southeastern North Carolina compromise the district, which Rouzer has represented since 2014.
Woodhouse says Rouzer has been doing extensive work in his district and holds a solid lead.
Before becoming a member of Congress, Rouzer was an assistant dean for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State, and he was appointed to a position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development by President George W. Bush. Rouzer recently moved from Johnston County to Wilmington, citing the time he spent in that part of the district, according to The Wilmington Star.
Horton, an internal medicine doctor, is one of eight female physicians running for Congress this election cycle, according to the Politics North Carolina blog. Horton is from Kure Beach.
“People are looking for a representative who will fight for better healthcare, won’t play politics with hurricane recovery and will put North Carolina families before big moneyed special interests,” Howard said. “Dr. Kyle Horton is just that person.”
Rouzer has raised almost $1.2 million for his re-election campaign, and Horton has raised almost $652,000.