Nickel beats Trump-backed Hines for N Carolina US House seat

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Democratic state Sen. Wiley Nickel defeated Republican political newcomer Bo Hines for an open U.S. House seat in the state’s lone swing district along Raleigh’s southern border.

Nickel, who has served Raleigh and nearby Cary in the state Senate since 2019, will now represent in Congress the urban, suburban and rural communities of the newly redrawn and relocated 13th District. His opponent, a 27-year-old former college football player who had former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, had relocated to the district from Winston-Salem just a month before the May primary.

The 13th District, which stretches from the southern border of the capital city beltline interstate loop to the farm land outside Goldsboro, emerged from a tumultuous redistricting battle during which North Carolina fashioned boundaries for a new congressional seat it was awarded following the 2020 census. Republican Rep. Ted Budd vacated the seat to run for U.S. Senate, but the 13th he currently represents has no crossover with the redrawn district.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Republican state Sen. Chuck Edwards defeated Democrat Jasmine Beach-Ferrara to win an open U.S. House seat in the western North Carolina district currently represented by GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn, whom Edwards beat in the primary.

The 11th District includes the progressive arts hub of Asheville tucked between many of the state’s deep red mountain towns bordering Tennessee and Georgia.

Edwards, 62, of Flat Rock, North Carolina, has served in the state Senate since 2016. His opponent, a two-term Buncombe County Commissioner, ordained minister and LGBTQ activist, would have been the first out LGBTQ person elected to a federal office from North Carolina.

“I’m grateful for the strong showing of support,” Edwards said Tuesday night. “I built my career in business by always putting customers first and will put constituents first in D.C.”

North Carolina Republicans held eight seats heading into this year, and Democrats held five. But several districts in this election cycle bear little resemblance to their previous iterations after a lengthy redistricting battle scrambled the state’s congressional map to account for the new fourteenth seat it was awarded following the 2020 census.

North Carolina’s lone swing district in the Raleigh suburbs, the closely watched 13th District, shares no common ground with its previous form about 100 miles (161 kilometers) to the west. Its recent relocation has situated the state’s marquee race between Democratic state Sen. Wiley Nickel and Republican political newcomer Bo Hines in uncharted territory for both parties.

A panel of three judges established the existing congressional map after it declared the Republican-controlled legislature’s proposed boundaries constituted unlawful partisan gerrymandering. The map will only be used for the 2022 election and will be redrawn by the General Assembly for 2024. Analysts say it favors Republicans in seven of the state’s 14 districts, and favors Democrats in six.

Regarded as one of the nation’s few battlegrounds for congressional control, the race for the 13th District pits a well-known Democratic state lawmaker and criminal defense attorney against a 27-year-old GOP upstart with former President Donald Trump’s backing. The two have spent the campaign cycle accusing the other of extreme views while trying to paint themselves as moderate enough to represent the district’s urban, suburban and rural constituents between Raleigh and Goldsboro.

At a polling location in Holly Springs, a Raleigh suburb that epitomizes the district’s narrow partisan divide, voters said they are less focused on the individual candidates and more focused on the national parties’ agendas.

Mark Swanson, a 50-year-old unaffiliated voter who cast his ballot for Nickel, said he doesn’t believe Republican control of Congress will improve the economy, noting that the pandemic illuminated long-term flaws in the global supply chain.

“I can’t vote Republican right now,” Swanson said. “What’s their solution to anything? They just complain about the economy stuff but, what, tax cuts and deregulation is going to solve all those problems? It’s not true. They’ve been doing that for years and it hasn’t done a damn thing.”

Aaron Wenzel, a 47-year-old registered Republican who voted for Hines, said he tends to support Republican candidates for federal offices and Democratic candidates for school board. The father of two said he thinks Hines is the right candidate to represent his “fiscally conservative perspective” at the national level but that Democrats’ ambitious spending goals are needed at the local level to bring North Carolina’s public schools “up to par.”

In the northeast corner of the state along the Virginia border, Republicans are eying the redrawn 1st District as a potential pickup. A longtime Democratic stronghold, represented by retiring Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield since 2004, the 1st District now hosts a competitive race for the open seat Butterfield is vacating.

The outgoing congressman endorsed Democratic state Sen. Don Davis — a former Air Force officer, minister and former mayor of Snow Hill, North Carolina — as his successor. Davis faces Republican Sandy Smith, a Trump-endorsed business executive, who aims to flip the seat red after failing to do so in 2020, when she lost to Butterfield.

And in the new left-leaning 14th District, based in western Charlotte, Democratic state Sen. Jeff Jackson defeated Republican businessman Pat Harrigan for the state’s newest seat.

Hannah Schoenbaum 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. Follow her on Twitter at @H_Schoenbaum.

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