Incumbent lawmakers running for re-election are used to campaigning against primary challengers, but usually those challengers aren't other incumbents.
But that's a situation four Republican state senators are facing this year after redistricting drew two incumbents each into District 45 and District 31.
First-term Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga, faces off against three-term Sen. Shirley Randleman, R-Wilkes, in District 45, which includes Watauga, Wilkes, Avery and Alleghany counties and part of Surry County.
Sen. Dan Barrett, R-Davie, who was appointed last August, is running against Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, who was appointed to serve in 2014. Peter Antinozzi, a Republican from Winston-Salem, is also running in the District 31 race. The district includes Davie County and part of Forsyth County.
Both districts are seen as Republican strongholds.
Ballard said running against a fellow senator has been challenging, especially in terms of distinguishing herself from Randleman, since they've worked well together.
Now, during the campaign, it's all about how hard the candidates can work to get in touch with constituents.
Ballard said she's been running a grassroots campaign and getting out and meeting residents in all five of the counties the district encompasses. "I'm 39 years old, I'm engaged and I'm involved, and I'm willing to step up and serve," Ballard said, describing one of the messages she's telling voters. "And that message goes a long way."
She also says part of her campaign is helping to build and strengthen a political party that is already in place. She's been attending a lot of fish fries since the campaign season began, as well as knocking on doors, picking up the phone and meeting people to ask for their vote. "Just asking for their vote goes a long way," Ballard said. "We do live 3.5 hours from Raleigh, folks want to know that we care, and that I'm just as involved at home as I am in Raleigh," she said.
Randleman did not respond to several requests for an interview.
Carter Wrenn, a political consultant who worked on U.S. Rep. George Holding's campaign in 2016 when he ran against then-Rep. Renee Ellmers in North Carolina's 2nd District, said double-bunked races are like all other races, except they start in another place — both candidates have some form of name recognition.
"There's going to be tons of people that don't know either (candidate)," Wrenn said of state legislative races, which tend to have lower name recognition. "If you have a normal primary where one of the candidates is well known, and the other is unknown, that's a completely different starting place."
Getting to know the candidates can come down to how much money a candidate can raise. Television ads in more urban markets — like Raleigh, Charlotte and Winston-Salem — are more expensive than those in smaller, more rural markets like Greenville or Boone.
Randleman raised $24,505 in the first quarter of 2018, and goes into the primary with $11,649 in cash. She received $15,200 in donations from PACs, and $9,050 from individuals. Senate Rules Chairman Bill Rabon's re-election committee donated $5,000 to Randleman's campaign.
Ballard raised more than $69,300 in the first quarter of 2018, with the bulk of it — $58,999.69 — coming from individual donations. She received $8,700 from PACs. She goes into the primary with $55,627 on hand. She received donations from four of her colleagues' election committees, including $2,000 from both Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, and Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph.
Nathan Miller, vice chairman of the Watauga County Republican Party, said a lot of people are frustrated with having a double-bunked district.
"They're both highly qualified, they're both highly competent," Miller said. "Frankly, I don't know why they got double-bunked. ... They're both strong-willed females in the N.C. Senate. Why would you want to double-bunk them? Eventually one of them is going to lose."
Miller said both candidates have participated in local party events, and it is taking a neutral stance in all Republican primaries. "The party is here to help, but the party is not here to take sides in an internal struggle," Miller said.
Ballard has been active on social media, posting recent photos from events and endorsements — like one from former Appalachian State head football coach Jerry Moore.
A recent mailer touted the endorsement of Sarah Palin, the vice presidential nominee in 2008. Recently she posted a video on Facebook featuring her mom talking about Ballard's childhood and how it translated into her professional life as a state lawmaker. At the end she urges viewers to vote for Ballard.
Randleman isn't as active on Facebook or other social media platforms, but she does post photos from events in the district and endorsements, like one from the anti-abortion group North Carolina Right to Life (which also endorsed Ballard).
Neither Barrett nor Krawiec responded to requests for interviews. Both have been active on social media and on the campaign trail.
Barrett was appointed to replace Sen. Andrew Brock, who was appointed to the state Board of Review. A former gubernatorial candidate, he is known for his grassroots campaigning. As of May 1, his campaign had knocked on 8,000 doors, according to his official Twitter account. On his Facebook he's shared endorsements from District Attorney Garry Frank and Superior Court Judge Lori Hamilton. The N.C. Republican Senatorial Committee — which is overseen by Senate leader Phil Berger — has supported both Barrett and Krawiec's campaigns by organizing direct mailings.
Krawiec has been actively sharing campaign mailers and commercials highlighting her record in the General Assembly. One such mailer — paid for by the Mainstreet Merchants for a Better North Carolina — said her efforts in the General Assembly led to "North Carolina being ranked Top 10 for wage growth in the U.S." and that she worked to "reduce regulation and create a business-friendly environment to build a strong local economy."
A commercial paid for by the North Carolina Chamber highlights Krawiec as a tough, smart conservative. Another ad — paid for by her campaign — describes her as "the only conservative choice for state Senate" who stood up to big-spending politicians in Raleigh and took on Planned Parenthood.
Jon Welborn, chairman of the Davie County Republican Party, is in a similar boat to his counterparts in Watauga County — they have two qualified candidates, and one isn't going to survive the primary. "I don't think really Davie County or Forsyth County loses, rather we just lose one Republican from the Senate. I think both candidates will do what's good for the district," he said.
"I think both of them have worked really hard. I think (Krawiec's) difference though is the ability to fund her campaign," Welborn said. "Dan has more of the grassroots. That's just more of his campaign style."
In the first quarter of 2018, Krawiec's campaign raised $66,659, with more than $26,000 of that coming from individuals and $34,450 coming from political committees. Campaign finance documents for the first quarter were not available for Barrett's campaign at the time of publication.
The grassroots campaign efforts implemented by both Ballard and Barrett are important, since they'll have to get to know the voters in the new parts of their districts. Wrenn, the political consultant, noted that if one of the candidates is more well known in one part of the district, that's an "uphill climb" for the other candidate.
Ballard is effectively working in seven counties as she continues to represent her district under the previous maps and campaigns in the new district. "I've been in seven counties in the last six months," she said. "That's a lot of sacrifice of my time on my own personal schedule and my job ... The current district I serve in, I still serve them. No matter what, coming into the short session I'm looking out for them."