Four General Assembly incumbents fall on Super Tuesday



(The Center Square) – Fourteen months ago, Republican leaders in the North Carolina House of Representatives placed three Democrats in committee co-chairmanships.

One switched parties four months later, and only one of the other two survived Super Tuesday. Rep. Shelly Willingham, D-Edgecombe, soldiers on while Rep. Michael Wray, D-Northampton, joins two other House incumbents and one from the Senate who fell in primaries.

Results are unofficial until counties canvass the votes on March 15 and the state Board of Elections gives certifications. As recently as the 2018 midterms, there have been quirks in that process.

Roanoke Rapids’ Rodney Pierce upset Wray, from Gaston, in District 27. The difference was 42 votes of 11,918 cast. He doesn’t have an opponent in the general election.

Willingham, of Rocky Mount, easily turned back Tarboro’s Abbie Lane 78.9%-21.1% in District 23. His return to the House includes a fall matchup with Williamston Republican Brent Roberson.

State Rep. Tricia Cotham, R-Mecklenburg, was the other member of the trio to gain committee appointments last year. She didn’t have a primary to win and is co-chairwoman of the education committee. Wray is co-chairman of the finance committee and Willingham is co-chairman of the alcoholic beverages committee.

Other House members to lose were Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, and Rep. Kevin Crutchfield, R-Cabarrus. Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, was the lone victim in his chamber.

In House District 14, Cleveland lost to Wyatt Gable by 95 votes of 4,827 cast. Both are from Jacksonville. Jacksonville Democrat Carmen Spicer is the Nov. 5 opponent.

In House District 82, Harrisburg’s Brian Echevarria denied Midland’s Crutchfield by 171 votes of 9,051 cast. Concord Democrat Sabrina Berry awaits in the general election.

Durham’s Woodard, in Senate District 22, lost to Durham’s Sophia Chitlik 57.6%-42.5% of 4,496 votes cast. Libertarian Ray Ubinger awaits in November.

Senate primaries numbered six for Democrats and four for Republicans. Thirty-four House primaries included 20 for Republicans, 13 for Democrats and one Libertarian.

Among the close calls were Rep. Cecil Brockman, D-Guilford, winning by 83 votes of 6,011 cast; and Rep. Sam Watford, R-Davidson, winning by 93 votes of 11,751 cast. Brockman has been among those who voted alongside Republicans on veto measures by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

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