North Carolinians tend not to vote in primary elections. Well, they do, but not in the same way they vote in general elections, even in presidential-election years.

Take 2020, for example, when just 31.2 percent of NC’s eligible voters took part in the primary, while 75.4 percent — more than double — voted in the general.

But here’s the thing: In NC, many elections are decided by the primary. This year is no exception.

We’ve identified seven elections in Guilford and Forsyth counties that will be decided by the primary election, ranging from near the top of the ticket all the way down to the municipal races.

One US House race will be won in the primary — by a Republican. District 6 was redrawn for the 2020 Election on a judge’s order to encompass basically the Triad — a carveout of Greensboro and Winston-Salem and a few outlying communities. It was won handily by Rep. Kathy Manning (D), who bested GOP challenger Lee Haywood by 25 percentage points, about 100,000 votes.. The new maps make District 6 an R+9 district. Manning did not file for re-election, but six noteworthy Republicans did: former High Point Mayor Jay Wagner, former US House Rep. Mark Walker, former Trump endorsee Bo Hines, current Trump endorsee Addison McDowell, former NY State Assemblyman Robert Castelli and Greensboro political operative Mary Ann Contogiannis (her family owns Acropolis restaurant).

In the NC House, one Triad race will be decided in the primary: District 72, covering the northern half of Winston-Salem and outlying areas, is rated D+24. There we will see incumbent Democrat Rep. Amber Baker try to defend her seat against challenger Marcus Pearson.

The Forsyth County Register of Deeds race will also be decided in March. Incumbent Lynn Johnson will run against challenger Brittany Bailey, both Democrats.

But nothing touches Winston-Salem CIty Council for primary elections. Unlike Greensboro, which runs non-partisan municipal elections, Winston-Salem’s council election is partisan, meaning that candidates must run under the auspices of a political party. But like all big cities in NC, Winston-Salem is heavily blue making it difficult for a Republican to break through.

This year, the mayor’s race and six of eight ward seats will be decided by the end of the partisan primary.

Longtime incumbent Mayor Allen Joines (D), who has been in office since 2001, has two primary challengers this year: JoAnne Allen, president of the local activist group Action4Now, and Frankie Gist, a young motivational speaker whose supporters include singer/songwriter Cat Power, aka Chan Marshall of Greensboro.

In the East Ward, incumbent Annette Scippio D) has three challengers: Jared D. Lamkin, Christopher Taylor and Phil Carter. In the North Ward, incumbent DD Adams (D) faces Eunice Campbell and Kimberli Rene Wellman. In the Northeast Ward, incumbent Barbara Burke (D) has a challenger in Paula McCoy. The South Ward shows incumbent John Larson (D) facing three challengers: Carolyn Highsmith, Vivian Joiner and Adrian Smith. 

Democrat James Taylor, the incumbent in the Southeast Ward, is running unopposed. Newcomer Scott Andree-Bowen (D) is also running opposed in the Southwest Ward after incumbent Kevin Mundy chose not to run for re-election.

Longtime incumbent councilmember Robert C. Clark, who has served the West Ward since 2001 as the lone Republican on council, is a heavy favorite against Democrat challenger Christopher Smith.  Nice to have a choice, though.

The only real contest is in the Northwest Ward, where incumbent Jeff MacIntosh has chosen not to run for re-election. Two Democrats, Regina Ford Hall and Bob Hartwell, and two Republicans, Herbert Burns Jr. and Jimmy Hodson. The ward has been held by a Democrat since at least 2000.

All city council candidates with primary races are invited to our candidate forum, Feb. 13 at 5:30 p.m. at the Central Library downtown. So far 13 candidates have committed to attending or sending proxies.

And look for more on all candidates with contested in our Primary Guide, hitting the streets on the first day of Early Voting.

The whole point of this exercise is to encourage people to vote in the primary election. The races are incredibly important. Low turnout makes your vote count more. And for many races in our state, the primary decided the whole thing.

Election Day for the primary is March 5. Early Voting starts Feb. 15. Go out and do your part.

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