Republicans on defense in North Carolina congressional races
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A soft-spoken former state Supreme Court justice who’s challenging a four-term incumbent represents one of several U.S. House races in which Democrats are hoping to reshape North Carolina’s congressional delegation through redrawn district boundaries, strong candidates and a high-turnout presidential race.
A 2019 redrawing of the state’s U.S. House map by the legislature following court rulings increased the 8th District’s share of Democratic voters and made Republican incumbent Rep. Richard Hudson unfamiliar to many. That provided an opening for Democrat Patricia Timmons-Goodson to try to flip the district, which stretches from Concord to Fayetteville and encompasses Fort Bragg.
Republican incumbents in two other districts chose not to run again after their territories were tilted left, and another seat vacated by President Donald Trump’s chief of staff has also proved to be a competitive race.
Timmons-Goodson, who grew up in a military family, was North Carolina’s first black woman to serve on the state Supreme Court. She has centered her campaign on health care and unifying residents and political parties that have become more polarized during the Trump administration. Hudson, an ally of Trump, has focused his campaign more on veterans issues.
“There’s a lot that needs to be fixed,” Timmons-Goodson said. “I’m speaking of the pandemic and the health issues associated with that and the economy. ... We’re going to need to put folks in place that are not content with the status quo and that bring different perspectives and a willingness to work and to get things done.”
Hudson, who was first elected in 2012 by 8 percentage points, said he expects the race this year to be “fairly close” because of the way the district has been redrawn.
The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan group, considers Hudson a narrow favorite to win.
North Carolina state lawmakers drew the district lines a third time during the past decade in 2019 after state judges declared it was highly likely Republican legislators unlawfully manipulated district lines for partisan gain. The partisan gerrymandering lawsuit — filed by Democratic and unaffiliated voters and bankrolled by a national Democratic group — alleged extreme political maneuvering that all but assured a 10-3 Republican seat advantage within the delegation.
Redrawing North Carolina’s congressional map has opened the doors for Democrats to pick up at least two House seats this year. It tilted the 2nd and 6th Districts to the left, causing GOP Reps. George Holding of Raleigh and Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro not to seek reelection.
Democrat Deborah Ross, who ran unsuccessfully for a U.S. Senate seat in 2016, is heavily favored to win the 2nd District race over Republican Alan Swain and a Libertarian candidate. Attorney and community fundraiser Kathy Manning is the leading candidate in the 6th District race against Republican Lee Haywood.
Democrats believe they also have opportunities to win more seats in other districts that became less Republican. That includes the far western 11th District, where retired Air Force colonel and Democrat Moe Davis is looking to beat 25-year-old Republican Madison Cawthorn, who is considered a rising star in conservative circles.
Cawthorn has raised more than twice as much money as Davis since the start of the campaign but entered mid-October with less cash on hand. Cawthorn would become one of the youngest members of Congress ever if he were to win the seat vacated by Mark Meadows in March, when Meadows became Trump’s chief of staff.
In the other nine races, the six Republican and three Democratic incumbents up for reelection were running strong toward the end of the race. One Democrat — Rep. Alma Adams in the Charlotte-area 12th — faces no opposition.
The race between Hudson and Timmons-Goodson is likely the closest congressional race in the state, with outside groups on both sides pouring a lot of money into the race.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC that works to elect House Republicans, has spent more than $3.5 million against Timmons-Goodson, according to data from the Federal Election Commission, including a more than $2 million ad buy purchased last week. On the other side of the aisle, Women Vote! spent nearly $800,000 against Hudson. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent about $550,000 going after Hudson.
Timmons-Goodson “literally had no visibility, no campaign until Nancy Pelosi started pouring millions of dollars through ActBlue into her race,” Hudson said, referring to the U.S. House speaker and a left-leaning PAC. “Her campaign is completely funded by outside liberal special interests.”
A recent campaign filing from Timmons-Goodson shows she raised nearly $425,000 during the first two weeks of October, with 92% coming from individual donors, according to the FEC. Hudson raised almost $250,000 during the same period, with 46% coming from individual donors and the majority coming from outside political committees.
“We’re in a great place,” Timmons-Goodson said. “This is, I believe, the most competitive congressional race. I do believe that. We’re working hard and we will see what the voters say.”
Anderson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.