North Carolina former state Sen. David Rouzer, a Republican, won his party's nomination in the 7th Congressional District Tuesday night, clearing the biggest hurdle between him and retiring Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre's seat, while GOP Rep. Walter Jones survived a spirited primary challenge in another district.
Rouzer won 59 percent of the vote to Woody White's 35 percent with half of precincts reporting at the time the Associated Press called the race. While the Republican establishment celebrates victory for its preferred candidate in the state's U.S. Senate primary, it will also celebrate a smaller victory in this conservative House seat as well as in an Ohio district where a business-backed incumbent, Rep. David Joyce, also won his nomination.
Rouzer raised and spent more money than White, who entered the race much later, and Rouzer got a significant boost from three establishment-oriented groups--the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, YG Network, and American Action Network—that spent $450,000 altogether beating up on White and boosting Rouzer in the final days of the campaign.
White had shown some traction in the race and was messaging and running TV ads critical of House Republican leaders, several of whom personally supported Rouzer.
Rouzer is now highly likely to become a member of Congress. The 7th District is Democratic-held but conservative-leaning, and McIntyre's retirement at the end of the year robs his party of his unique ability to draw conservative votes.
Meanwhile, Jones fended off a primary challenge from former White House aide Taylor Griffin, winning the Republican nomination again in North Carolina's 3rd Congressional District. When the Associated Press called the race with 71 percent of precincts in, Jones had 53 percent of the vote to Griffin's 44 percent.
Jones was seen as a prime target for a primary challenge. He clashed with party leadership and was removed from the House Financial Services Committee in 2012, and Griffin argued that those clashes made Jones less able to look out for his district. Jones evolution into a major Iraq War critic complicated his relationship with the hawkish side of his party. In 2013, Jones said former Vice President Dick Cheney would "rot in hell" because of the war.
Griffin, meanwhile, followed a different path than most primary challengers, running as an establishment Republican who would play nice with others in order to deliver for his district. He touted his credentials as a Treasury Department official during the George W. Bush administration, and defended Bush's record on defense.
Jones endured a barrage of outside spending. Although Americans for Prosperity came to his aid with radio ads thanking him for opposing Obamacare, the Emergency Committee for Israel and Ending Spending Action Fund, a super PAC created and financially backed by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, combined to spend more than $1 million to support Griffin.
In Ohio, Joyce fended off tea party-backed state Rep. Matt Lynch in the 14th Congressional District, carrying the GOP primary with 55 percent of the vote to 45 percent for Lynch when the Associated Press called the race with 80 percent of precincts reporting. Joyce, who was first elected in 2012, will face Democrat Michael Wager in the general election.
Lynch ran to Joyce's right, criticizing him for not being conservative enough. But the Chamber of Commerce, the American Hospital Association, and Defending Main Street -- the super PAC run by the district's former representative, Steven LaTourette -- spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads backing Joyce.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, state Rep. Alma Adams won a seven-way primary outright in North Carolina's 12th District, a safe Democratic seat. EMILY's List, the Democratic women's group, directed money to the district on Adams's behalf in the race to replace former Rep. Mel Watt, who is now in the Obama administration.
This article appears in the May 7, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.
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