North Carolina House primaries lean to the right

In the latest sign that House Republican ranks will be even more conservative after November than they are now, candidates considered the most conservative in the nomination battles Tuesday night won Republican run-offs for two of North Carolina???s open U.S. House districts.

The contests in the redistricted 11th (Western) District vacated by Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler and the 9th (Charlotte) vacated by Republican Rep. Sue Myrick were particularly newsworthy because in both cases, the GOP run-offs were considered tantamount to election to Congress. And in both cases, nominees Mark Meadows (11th) and Robert Pittenger (9th) won by rallying the traditional right-of-center ???ammunition depots??? of the GOP — the tea party, values voters, anti-tax activists, and gun owners — against candidates backed by the party ???establishment.???

Even in the 8th District, where winner Richard Hudson was initially regarded as the favorite of party leaders against ???constitutionalist??? insurgent Scott Keadle, the former congressional chief of staff pulled an upset largely by running to Keadle???s right. In winning the run-off against Rowan County Commissioner Keadle, Hudson strongly emphasized his support from conservative heroes such as past presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum. Moreover, he wore his win of a straw poll by a local tea party group as if it were an Olympic Gold Medal — even though Keadle had the backing of more area tea partiers and of the Club for Growth.

Like the young LBJ

A former staffer for three GOP House Members, the 40-year-old Hudson has often been likened for his tenacity and hard-charging style to another onetime Hill staffer who went to Congress himself: Lyndon Johnson, whose defeat of more senior politicians to win a House seat from Texas in 1937 is vividly portrayed in the first of Robert Caro???s volumes, “The Path to Power.”

Like the young LBJ, Hudson had some powerful backers in Washington, notably the Young Guns Action Fund run by House GOP Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and the fund is a recipient of $5 million from a billionaire casino executive. Along with the American Action Network (headed by former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman), Young Guns ran a barrage of hard-hitting TV spots slamming Keadle for accepting President Obama???s federal stimulus funds as a county commissioner in ???09.

Conservative cinches for November

This well-oiled effort clearly helped Hudson move to the right of Keadle and win the run-off by a margin of greater than 3 to 2. He is now a strong favorite over narrow 2010 winner and Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell, who lost favorable turf in the redistricting process.

In the other two run-offs, the lines between ???conservative outsider??? and ???establishment insider??? were much more clearly delineated. In the 11th, businessman Mark Meadows, who described himself as ???Christian and conservative,??? won with 74 percent of the vote over more moderate Van Patterson, favorite of party leaders and also a businessman.

Meadows is considered the likely winner in the fall over Democrat Hayden Rogers, top aide to retiring Rep. Shuler.

In the 9th District, former State Sen. and wealthy real estate investor Pittenger rolled up 53 percent of the vote against Jim Pendergraph, Mecklenberg County commissioner and former county sheriff. Although Pendergraph was the choice of popular Rep. Myrick, he could never overcome the fact he had been a Democrat up until a few years ago and contributed to Democratic candidates.

In striking contrast, Pittenger ran as an unabashed Christian and tea party candidate. He campaigned hard on smaller government, lower taxes and his record of financial support for conservative causes — notably the Jesse Helms Center in Raleigh.

Overall, July 17 was a good night for the right in North Carolina.


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