North Carolina’s 5 open congressional seats drawing candidates in droves

With five members of North Carolina’s U.S. House delegation declining to run this year, next week’s primaries have attracted dozens of Republican candidates seeking what could become extended time on Capitol Hill.

Some of the turnover can be attributed to redistricting — the Republican-controlled General Assembly last fall approved districts skewing rightward, prompting Democratic Reps. Jeff Jackson, Kathy Manning and Wiley Nickel to forgo reelection bids.

Compared to a map drawn by state judges for 2022 elections that resulted in Democrats and Republicans winning seven congressional seats each, the latest map makes it likely the GOP will win at least 10 of the 14 seats, according to election data. These seat flips could benefit national Republicans trying to retain what is now a fragile House majority in 2025.

Republican Reps. Patrick McHenry and Dan Bishop also declined to seek reelection, opening up vacancies in heavily GOP areas.

With courts rejecting legal arguments that redistricting maps can be struck down for favoring a party’s candidates disproportionately, chances are improved that North Carolina’s current congressional lines will stay in place through the 2030 elections, one redistricting expert says.

Given voting behavior and the shape of the districts, whoever wins can conceivably hold a seat “as long as they want,” said Michael Bitzer, a Catawba College political science professor. “This could be a very long career for whoever gets elected in this Primary.”

Four of the Republican primaries for seats where no incumbent is running have at least five candidates. That raises the possibility of May 14 runoffs between a race’s two top vote-getters should a leading candidate fail to receive more than 30% of the vote.

The open seats have attracted candidates including current North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker and the Rev. Mark Harris. Harris appeared to receive the most votes for a 2018 congressional election but never took office as a new election was ordered over an absentee ballot fraud probe.

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