North Carolina Primary Election Analysis


March 16, 2016


An animated Presidential race prompted strong voter turnout at the polls in North Carolina. 35 percent of voters voted in primaries this season, up from 2012 but falling short of 37 percent seen in the 2008 primary elections.

Early voting in the state also drew record numbers of participation with 11 percent of voters casting ballots, exceeding turnout in 2008.

Presidential Primary

Democrat Hillary Clinton had no trouble besting Bernie Sanders 54.7 percent to 40.5 percent in North Carolina. She won 83 counties across the state, and all but three counties east of the mountains.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump held off Ted Cruz in a tighter primary, 40.6 percent to 36.7 percent. John Kasich placed third among Republicans with 12.5 percent of the vote. Despite having endorsements from some prominent state Republicans, Marco Rubio fell to fourth in the state and ended his campaign after a loss to Trump in his home state of Florida.

U.S. Senate

Republican incumbent Richard Burr easily secured his primary victory over three challengers with 62 percent of the vote. Burr chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and is seeking his third term in the U.S. Senate. 

Similarly, in the Democratic primary, former state Representative Deborah Ross secured 63 percent of the vote and cruised past three lesser-known candidates with no statewide political experience.

North Carolina Council of State

There were few surprises in the top state races of the night.

  • Governor Pat McCrory and Attorney General Roy Cooper easily won the Republican and Democratic primaries for Governor respectively.  Gov. McCrory cruised to victory with over 80% of the vote in a field of three candidates.  Attorney General Cooper also handily won his race, though by a lesser margin, taking 68% of the vote in a two-person race.  It's expected that this could be a hotly contested race.  McCrory and Cooper will be joined in the fall by Lon Cecil, who did not face an opponent in the Libertarian primary.
  • Linda Coleman won the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor with slightly more than 50% of the vote in a field of four candidates.  This sets North Carolina up for a re-match of the 2012 race for Lieutenant Governor between Coleman and the current Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest.  Forest did not a face an opponent in the Republican primary. Forest bested Coleman in 2012 by less than 7,000 votes out of more than 4.3 million votes cast (a margin of less than 0.2%).  Coleman and Forest will be joined in the fall by J.J. Summerell, who did not face an opponent in the Libertarian primary.
  • Two sitting state senators won the Republican and Democratic primaries for Attorney General by roughly equal margins.  Sen. Buck Newton won almost 55% of the vote in the Republican primary, while Sen. Josh Stein won the Democratic primary with more than 53% of the vote.  This could be another close race in 2016.
  • Steve Troxler handily defeated Andy Stevens in the Republican primary for Commissioner of Agriculture, taking more than 68% of the vote.  Troxler, who has served three consecutive terms as Commissioner of Agriculture, will face Walter Smith in the General Election.  Smith did not have an opponent in the Democratic primary.
  • Mike Causey won the Republican primary for Commissioner of Insurance with 41% of the vote in a three-person race.  This sets up another rematch from 2012.  Causey will face the current Commissioner of Insurance Wayne Goodwin in the general election.  Goodwin, a two-term incumbent, did not have an opponent in the Democratic primary.  Goodwin won the 2012 match-up by almost 160,000 votes out of almost 4.3 votes cast - a margin of less than 4%.
  • Charles Meeker, a former Mayor of Raleigh, defeated Mazie Ferguson to win the Democratic primary for Commissioner of Labor with over 56% of the vote.  Meeker will face current Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry in the general election.  Berry, who did not face a challenger in the Republican primary, has held the position since 2001.
  • Mike LaPaglia defeated A.J. Daoud in the Republic primary for Secretary of State with over 61% of the vote.  LaPaglia will face current Secretary of State Elaine Marshall in the general election.  Marshall, who did not face an opponent in the Democratic primary, has held this position since 1997 after becoming the first woman elected to statewide office in North Carolina.
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson handily defeated Henry Pankey in the Democratic primary for this position, winning almost 80% of the vote.  She will be joined in the general election by Mark Johnson, who took over 53% of the vote in a three-person Republican primary.
  • Dan Blue III won the Democratic primary to replace retiring State     Treasurer Janet Cowell.  He defeated Ron Elmer, carrying over 58% of the vote.  Blue will face Dale Folwell in the general election.  Folwell, a former state legislator, faced no opposition in the Republican primary.
  • There was no primary for the position of State Auditor, as the Republican and Democratic candidates faced no opposition.  The current State Auditor, Democrat Beth Woods, will face Republican Chuck Stuber in the general election.

North Carolina Senate

  • Prior to the primary election, 13 seats in the Senate had already been decided due to the fact that a candidate faced no opposition in either the primary or general election.  These seats are:  Senator Phil Berger (R - 26th); Senator Dan Blue (D - 14th); Senator Andrew Brock (R - 34th); Senator Harry Brown (R - 6th); Senator Don Davis (D - 5th); Senator Erica Smith-Ingram (D - 3rd);  Senator Kathy Harrington (R - 43rd); Senator Brent Jackson (R - 10th); Senator Paul Lowe (D - 32nd); Senator Louis Pate (R - 7th);  Senator Bill Rabon (R- 8th); Senator Jerry Tillman (R - 29th); and Senator Andy Wells (R - 42nd).
  • After the primary election, two additional seats in the Senate have been decided due to the fact that the winner of the primary faces no opponent in the general election.  These members are Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R - 31st) and Senator Tommy Tucker (R - 35th).  Krawiec took over 62% of the vote in a three-person primary, while Tucker won more than 61% of the vote in a two-person race.
  • Thus, the Democrats have already won 4 seats in the Senate and the Republicans have already won 11.
  • In three of the remaining races the winner of the primary from one of the two major parties faces a challenger from the Libertarian party, but not from the other major party.  These incumbents are Senator David Curtis (R - 44th); Senator Floyd McKissick (D - 20th); and Senator Terry Van Duyn (D - 49th).
  • No incumbents were defeated in the primary election, though several won close elections.  Sen. Ben Clark (D - 21st) won a three-person primary with slightly less than 50% of the vote, besting his closest opponent by a margin of 5.6%.  Sen. Joel Ford (D - 38th) won a two-person primary with 52% of the vote.  Sen. David Curtis (R-44th) won a two-person primary with 51% of the vote.  Clark and Ford will face Republican opponents in the fall, while Curtis will face a Libertarian opponent.

North Carolina House

  • Prior to the primary election, 41 seats in the House of Representatives had already been decided due to the fact that a candidate faced no opposition in either the primary or general election.  These seats are:  Rep. Jay Adams (R - 96th); Rep. John R. Bradford, III (R - 98th); Rep. John M. Blust (R - 62nd); Rep. Cecil Brockman (D - 60th); Rep. Becky Carney (D - 102nd); Rep. George G. Cleveland (R - 14th); Rep. Carla D. Cunningham (D - 106th); Rep. Ted Davis, Jr. (R - 19th); Rep. Jimmy Dixon (R - 4th); Rep. Josh Dobson (R - 85th); Rep. John Faircloth (R - 61st); Rep. Susan C. Fisher (D - 114th); Rep. Elmer Floyd (D - 43rd); Rep. Carl Ford (R - 76th); Rep. Ken Goodman (D - 66th); Rep. George Graham (D - 12th); Rep. Mike Hager (R - 112th); Rep. Larry D. Hall (D - 29th); Rep. Edward Hanes, Jr. (D - 72nd); Rep. Pricey Harrison (D - 57th); Rep. Kelly E. Hastings (R - 110th); Rep. D. Craig Horn (R - 68th); Rep. Julia C. Howard (R - 79th); Rep. Howard J. Hunter, III (D - 5th); Rep. Verla Insko (D - 56th); Rep. Darren G. Jackson (D - 39th); Rep. Donny Lambeth (R - 75th); Rep. Marvin W. Lucas (D - 42nd); Rep. Chuck McGrady (R - 117th); Rep. Henry M. Michaux, Jr. (D - 31st); Rep. Rodney W. Moore (D - 99th); Rep. Tim Moore (R - 111th); Rep. Garland E. Pierce (D - 48th); Rep. Dennis Riddell (R - 64th); Rep. Stephen M. Ross (R - 63rd); Rep. Jason Saine (R - 97th); Rep. Mitchell S. Setzer (R - 89th); Rep. Evelyn Terry (D - 71st); Rep. John A. Torbett (R -     108th); Rep. Sam Watford (R - 80th); and Rep. Shelly Willingham (D - 23rd).
  • After the primary election, 16 additional seats in the House of Representatives have been decided due to the fact that the winner of the primary faces no opponent in the general election.  These seats are: Rep. Kelly Alexander (D - 107th); Rep. Larry Bell (D - 21st); Rep. Jamie Boles (R - 52nd); Rep. Bill Brisson (D - 22nd); Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D - 24th); Rep. John Fraley (R - 95th); Rep. Rosa Gill (D - 33rd); Rep. Charles Graham (D - 47th); Rep. Harry Warren (R - 77th); Rep. Michael Wray (D - 27th); Rep. Lee Zachary (R - 73rd); Mr. John Autry, winner of the Democratic primary (D - 100th); Mr. Terry Garrison, winner of the Democratic primary (D - 32nd); Ms. Holly Grange, winner of the Republican primary (R - 20th); Mr. Destin Hall, winner of the Republican primary (R - 87th); and Mr. Amos Quick, winner of the Democratic primary (D - 58th).
  • Thus, the Democrats have already won 29 seats in the House of Representatives and the Republicans have already won 28.
  • In two of the remaining races the winner of the primary from one of the two major parties faces a challenger from the Libertarian party, but not from the other major party.  These incumbents are Rep. Duane Hall (D - 11th) and Rep. Yvonne Holley (D - 38th).
  • Two incumbents were defeated in the primary election.  Rep. Ralph Johnson (D - 58th), who suffered a mild stroke in late February, lost to Amos Quick in the Democratic primary.  Rep. George Robinson (R - 87th), who was appointed in 2015 to fill the term of Edgar Starnes after his resignation, lost to Destin Hall in the Republican primary. 
  • Two other incumbents appeared to survive very close races.  Rep. Justin Burr (R - 67th) led Lane Burris by less than 250 votes out of almost 12,500 cast - a margin of less than 2%.  In an even closer contest, Rep. Charles Jeter (R-92nd) led Tom Davis by 28 votes out of slightly more than 7,400 cast - a margin of less than 0.4%.  Quick and Robinson face no opposition in the general election, while Burr and Jeter (should their leads hold) each face a Democratic opponent in November.

Mecklenburg County

In Mecklenburg County's Democratic at-large commissioner primary, three familiar faces held off a lone newcomer. Ella Scarborough, Pat Cotham and current board chair Trevor Fuller survived the primary election. Scarborough gained the most votes in the race. Vying for the three at-large seats on the Commission, the incumbents will face Republican Jeremy Brasch in November.

In District 2, incumbent Democrat Vilma Leake defeated her two primary challengers with 66 percent of the vote. Leake will be serving her fifth term on the Commission, as she is unopposed in the general election.

Neither candidate vying to represent District 5 drew a primary challenger. Incumbent Matthew Ridenhour (R) will face Democrat Marc Friedland in the general election. 

Incumbent Republican Bill James breezed through the District 6 primary election with 63 percent of the vote. James, unopposed in November, will serve his 11th term on the Commission.

Bond Referendum

The Connect NC Public Improvement bond package was approved by voters with overwhelming support. 66 percent of voters favored the $2 billion package which will primarily support new buildings and repairs for universities and community colleges, as well as some other statewide projects. The bond will not fund any transportation initiatives, but allocates funds for measures like state park maintenance, water/sewer infrastructure, and National Guard facilities. 

June 7 Congressional Primary

Candidates seeking office in the U.S. House of Representatives or the state Supreme Court will begin filing to run today through March 25th.

A special primary will be held June 7th due to federal court action declaring two of North Carolina's congressional districts to be illegally gerrymandered. State lawmakers have drawn new districts for the June election.


Below are a list of primary election winners that will face off in the general election.

Click headers for all race outcomes and detailed election data.


U.S. President

DEM - Hillary Clinton

REP - Donald Trump

U.S. Senate

DEM - Deborah Ross

REP - Richard Burr (i)


NC Governor

DEM - Roy Cooper

REP - Pat McCrory (i)

NC Lt. Governor

DEM - Linda Coleman

REP - Dan Forest (i)*

NC Attorney General

DEM - Josh Stein

REP - Buck Newton

NC Auditor

DEM - Beth Woods (i)*

REP - Chuck Stuber*

NC Commissioner of Agriculture

DEM - Walter Smith*

REP - Steve Troxler (i)

NC Commissioner of Insurance 

DEM - Wayne Goodwin (i)*

REP - Mike Causey

NC Commissioner of Labor

DEM - Charles Meeker

REP - Cherie Berry (i)*

NC Secretary of State

DEM - Elaine Marshall (i)*

REP - Michael LaPaglia

NC Superintendent of Public Instruction

DEM - June Atkinson(i)

REP - Mark Johnson

NC Treasurer

DEM - Dan Blue

REP - Dale Folwell*


(Mecklenburg delegation listed below)

District 37

DEM - Jeff Jackson (i)*

REP - Bob Diamond*

District 38

DEM - Joel Ford (i)

REP - Richard Rivette*

District 39

DEM - Lloyd Scher*

REP - Dan Bishop*

District 40

DEM - Joyce Waddell (i)

REP - Marguerite Cook*

District 41

DEM - Jonathan Hudson*

REP - Jeff Tarte (i)*


(Mecklenburg delegation listed below)

District 88

DEM - Mary Belk*

REP - Rob Bryan (i)*

District 92

DEM - Chaz Beasley*

REP - Charles Jeter (i)

District 98

DEM - No Candidate

REP - John Bradford

District 99

DEM - Rodney Moore (i)*

REP - No Candidate

District 100

DEM - John Autry

REP - No Candidate

District 101

DEM - Beverly Earle (i)

REP - Justin Dunn

District 102

DEM - Becky Carney (i)*

REP - No Candidate

District 103

DEM - Rochelle Rivas

REP - Bill Brawley (i)*

District 104

DEM - Peter Noris*

REP - Andy Dulin*

District 105

DEM - Connie Green-Johnson*

REP - Scott Stone

District 106

DEM - Carla Cunningham (i)*

REP - No Candidate

District 107

DEM - Kelly Alexander, Jr. (i)*

REP - No Candidate



County Commissioner At-Large

DEM - Ella Scarborough (i)

DEM - Pat Cotham (i)

DEM - Trevor Fuller (i)

REP - Jeremy Brasch*

County Commissioner District 2

DEM - Vilma Leake (i)

REP - No Candidate

County Commissioner District 5

DEM - Marc Friedland*

REP - Matthew Ridenhour (i)*

County Commissioner District 6

DEM - No Candidate

REP - Bill James (i)

Register of Deeds

DEM - Fred Smith 

REP - No Candidate


Connect NC Public Improvement Bond

- Passed

(i) indicates incumbent

* indicates unopposed primary race


For more information or to be added to our distribution list, please feel free to contact our North Carolina Legislative team.



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