North Carolina is supposed to be one of the Republican Party's great prizes of this redistricting cycle. With more-favorable lines in place for a quartet of current Democratic House seats, and the current Republican seats still protected, Tuesday's primary represents the next step toward a GOP stranglehold on North Carolina's congressional districts. But that ultimate goal is getting lost in several combative, race-to-the-right primaries that could damage the GOP's prospects in November.
Democratic Reps. Mike McIntyre (7th District) and Larry Kissell (8th District) will battle Republicans through November, and exactly which Republican each one faces will have a lot to do with whether they return to Congress.
That has some Republicans worried, especially in McIntyre's district. His 2010 opponent, Ilario Pantano, is competing for the GOP nomination again, but Pantano has flaws, including a stint at Goldman Sachs and now-dismissed charges of murdering two prisoners while serving as a Marine in Iraq. GOP state Sen. David Rouzer could be a stronger general-election contender, but he has his own vulnerabilities, including work lobbying for a 2007 agriculture bill that included a pathway to legal status for some undocumented immigrants. Rouzer, once a staffer for the late GOP Sen. Jesse Helms, contends that the bill is like one that Helms supported, but that defense highlights the establishment connections that Pantano, a strident tea partier, runs against.
In Kissell's neighboring 8th District, the prospect of a November pickup has faded into the background as Republicans decide on their nominee. The Club for Growth threw its considerable weight behind a former local official, dentist Scott Keadle. Many establishment Republicans have endorsed Richard Hudson, a former congressional chief of staff. With a field of five candidates, this primary could be heading for a runoff.
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