Kathy Manning, a Greensboro philanthropist, lawyer and political newcomer, swept through the Democratic primary with a commanding 2-1 vote advantage over opponent Adam Coker, setting the stage for a well-funded and energetic challenge to Republican incumbent Ted Budd in November.
Manning celebrated her primary win with a throng of supporters, campaign staff and volunteers at Horigan’s House of Taps in downtown Greensboro on Tuesday night.
“I got into this race almost exactly five months ago because I was so sick of the chaos and dysfunction that we see in Washington DC,” Manning told her cheering supporters. “Frankly, I got tired of waking up and turning on the TV, watching the news and just getting infuriated. And so I decided that I had to step up and try to make change.”
The Manning campaign spent about a fifth of the $1.3 million raised since the candidate entered the race in December, leaving $1.0 million to fuel a drive to dislodge Budd, a gun-range owner who won his seat in the new 13th District two years ago thanks in part to a financial boost from the conservative Club for Growth PAC. In comparison to his Democratic challenger, Budd has only raised $877,473 in this campaign cycle and holds $534,611 to wage a general election campaign.
Manning said during her election watch party that she wants to go to Washington to “fight the big drug companies and bring down the high cost of prescription drugs” and to “fight for more affordable, accessible healthcare coverage.”
The campaign complemented an advertising effort through television, digital placements and mailers with a robust organizing ground game, fielding volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls as the candidate maintained a grueling schedule of appearances throughout the five counties in the district, which stretches west from Greensboro to Iredell County.
“We spent lots and lots of time getting out to meet people everywhere — all pockets of our community,” Manning said. “I got to know them, and I let them get to know me. We share the same values. It doesn’t matter what the economic status, when you show that you care about people I think it comes across. People have been warm and receptive, and they’re ready for a change.”
Manning’s primary win comes only three days after local Democratic Party officers in the 13th Congressional District issued a stinging rebuke to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats’ fundraising arm, in response to its involvement in the primary. The committee, known by its acronym DCCC, backed Manning through its “Red to Blue” program. (Dan McCready, a Democrat in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District covering the Charlotte suburbs, also won his primary on Tuesday.) The 13th Congressional District Democrats passed a resolution on May 5 asking the DCCC to stay out of the primary election, while calling its preferential treatment of favored candidates “a disruptive and undemocratic force.”
Even before the primary results came in on Tuesday, Democrats appeared to be mending bruised feelings over the DCCC’s involvement and the local committee’s rebuke. Melanie Rodenbough, a volunteer for the Coker campaign, said on Tuesday that the campaign manager Ken Stutts had already reached out to the chair of the 13th Congressional District Democrats about a plan to support the Democratic nominee, whomever it turned out to be.
Meanwhile, Manning’s victory signaled a coalescence with the grassroots Swing Left campaign, which up to the primary outcome had maintained neutrality in the contest between the two Democratic candidates. Since April 2017, Swing Left NC-13 has knocked on doors to register voters and talk to them about their concerns. Abby Karp, an organizer with Swing Left NC-13, said the organization has built an email list of 100 volunteers, with 20 to 30 people showing up on any given weekend to canvas. Swing Left’s national organization has also raised $51,702 to turn over to the Manning campaign.
Karp said she’s had a “preliminary” conversation with the Manning campaign, and looks forward to the Swing Left volunteers sitting down with the candidate. But she said she expects Swing Left to maintain at least a degree of autonomy from the campaign.
“One model is possibly we continue to canvas in a certain number of precincts,” Karp said. “Maybe we become the canvassing arm in certain areas. We’ve become close; we’ve become a coherent unit that works well together. Or we could merge into Kathy’s campaign. But then, we’re not going to stop after November.”
Karp said whatever individual volunteers’ feelings about the primary candidates, she believes that Democrats will unify behind Manning.
“I think Democrats and progressive voters are so conscious of the danger of allowing the Republicans to continue what they’re doing they will unite,” Karp said. “A lot of people learned the lesson from ‘if my guy doesn’t win I’m going to sit this one out.’ For the volunteers in Swing Left, the principles of compassion for those who have the least overrides many things. I think we’re all in. I’m all in.”
In the Democratic primary for the 6th Congressional District, business consultant Ryan Watts surged past opponent Gerald Wong, a long-haul truck driver, winning 77.1 percent to 22.8 percent. Watts will face Republican incumbent Mark Walker in the general election.
Turnout in Guilford County, which is split between the 6th and 13th congressional districts, landed at 11.3 percent. The last mid-term election, which took place in 2014, saw 15.1 percent of registered voters in Guilford County go to the polls, with an open Republican primary for US Senate driving turnout. This year is the first even-year election in North Carolina since 2006 when there hasn’t been a marquee statewide race at the top of the ballot such as president, governor or US senator.
While overall turnout was down this year, the proportion of voters in Guilford County choosing the Democratic ballot in early and mail-in voting compared to Republican voters increased to 76.8 percent, from 62.5 percent in 2014.
Republican voters in Guilford County had only one countywide primary — the sheriff’s race. Along with open congressional primaries, Democratic voters were also drawn to the polls to decide a district attorney’s race with no Republican candidates, a contest for sheriff and primary for the sole at-large seat on the Guilford County School Board.
Democratic voters selected Avery Crump, a former district court judge, over Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Reese as the county’s next district attorney. With no Republican opponent, Crump will take office next year following the retirement of Doug Henderson barring a successful write-in opponent.
Democratic voters also overwhelmingly favored Danny Rogers, a former deputy, in the sheriff’s race. Rogers took 52.0 percent of the vote, compared to 36.3 percent by TJ Phipps, a retired Greensboro police captain, and 11.7 percent by James Zimmerman Sr., a former deputy.
Rogers, who celebrated his win at Havana Phil’s Cigar Co. in Greensboro, characterized his candidacy as a challenge to the status quo.
“I look forward to working together with the community to solve the problems facing the people of this great county, and ensuring a positive change for all citizens of Guilford County,” Rogers said.
Rogers faces Republican BJ Barnes in the November general election. Barnes, who has held the office of sheriff for almost 24 years, overwhelmingly defeated challenger Steve Parr, a former deputy, in the Republican primary, commanding 87.6 percent of the vote.
Incumbents from both parties easily won primaries in two state House races in Guilford County.
Jon Hardister, who serves as majority whip, won the Republican primary in House District 59 with 68.9 percent of the vote. Mark McDaniel, a former state senator who ran a pointed campaign attacking Hardister over expansion of the state sales tax, garnered only 25.9 percent of the vote. A third candidate, Karen C. Albright, polled at 5.3 percent. Hardister faces Democratic challenger Steven Buccini in the November general election.
In neighboring House District 58, Amos Quick, who serves as the Democratic freshman vice-chair, won his primary with 80.2 percent of the vote against challenger Kate Flippen. Quick faces Republican challenger Peter Boykin, founder of Gays for Trump, in the general election.
Incumbents also prevailed in Guilford County Commission races. Alan Perdue, who represents District 2 in High Point and southern Guilford County, defeated challenger Ashley Tillery, 67.9 percent to 32.1 percent in a Republican primary. Skip Alston, the longest serving member of the Guilford County Commission won the Democratic primary for District 8 against challenger Fahiym Hanna, 70.4 percent to 29.6 percent. Alston said he wants to build a safety net at the county level to offset the loss of support from the federal government under President Trump.
In the Guilford County School Board at-large race, incumbent Alan Duncan won 49.6 percent of the vote against challengers Tijuana Hayes, with 35.6 percent of the vote, and Keith McInnis Sr., with 14.8 percent. Duncan has served on the school board since 2000 and has chaired the board since 2002.
Incumbents Deena Hayes, a Democrat, and Linda Welborn, a Republican, also won their respective primaries. Hayes, who serves as vice-chair on the board and has held her seat since 2002, won 70.0 percent of the vote in the District 8 Democratic primary, with challengers BJ Levette and Laverne Carter splitting the remainder.
Welborn defeated challenger Will Marsh, 62.8 percent to 37.2 percent, in the District 4 Republican primary. District 4 also hosted a Democratic primary, with Adrienne Spinner going down in defeat to Desirée Best, who will face Welborn in the general election.
In the District 6 Democratic primary, Khem Irby defeated Chris Hocker and will face Republican incumbent Wes Cashwell in the general election.