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Primaries narrow the choices for NC legislative elections

RALEIGH (AP) Added redistricting, retirements and open seats in North Carolina’s General Assembly led to primary election victories May 8 by candidates distinct from the state capital’s power brokers.

The otherwise sleepy races picking major-party candidates for most of the legislature’s 170 seats were juiced by competition caused by mid-decade redistricting. Federal judges ordered district maps redrawn after deciding Republican legislators illegally designed voting districts with racial bias to favor themselves.

The redrawing led to retirements that created a dozen open seats this year. Nearly three dozen other Democratic or Republican incumbents were challenged within their party in contests that drew a total of about one out of seven eligible voters, according to an unofficial state elections board tally.

One open state Senate seat saw a local Republican candidate finish on top rather than two higher-profile politicos who moved into the district that includes Iredell and Yadkin counties. Iredell County Planning Board member Vickie Sawyer won a four-way GOP contest. The race also attracted former Mecklenburg County state Sen. Bob Rucho and former lottery commissioner and longtime GOP activist A.J. Daoud.

Sawyer faces Democrat Beniah McMiller in November.

The reshuffled legislative map forced two sets of Republican senators to run against GOP colleagues after being placed in the same district.

In one mountain district along the Virginia border, Sen. Deanna Ballard defeated Sen. Shirley Randleman. In the other double-bunked district, Sen. Joyce Krawiec of Forsyth County narrowly defeated Sen. Dan Barrett, who was appointed to his seat representing Davie and Iredell counties after last year’s long legislative session.

Stanly County pharmacist Wayne Sasser upset Republican Rep. Justin Burr in another district changed in last year’s redistricting. Burr had led the GOP push to also redraw judicial election districts for the first time since the 1960s. Democrats and their allied advocacy groups argue the proposal is a political power play by GOP leaders seeking to control the judiciary after losing court decisions.

Allegations of sexual harassment sank the re-election effort of Raleigh-area Rep. Duane Hall, who lost his Democratic primary to first-time female candidate Allison Dahle. Hall had strongly denied the allegations, but top Democrats had called for him to step down.

In a tight Senate race in the state’s northeastern corner, Republican state Rep. Bob Steinburg of Chowan County defeated Dare County real estate agent Clark Twiddy for an open seat. Several senators backed Twiddy, whom Steinburg criticized for making campaign contributions to prominent Statehouse Democrats in past campaigns.

Also along the Outer Banks, state Rep. Beverly Boswell of Dare County ran into credibility questions and was defeated by fellow Republican Bob Hanig, chairman of the Currituck County commission. The state nursing board scolded Boswell in March for claiming to be a nurse on her campaign website and Facebook page when she is not.

In Charlotte, Democratic Sen. Joel Ford was upended by assistant public defender Mujtaba Mohammed. Ford had been criticized for sometimes voting with the Republican majority.

On the Republican side, the sponsor and a chief advocate for a 2016 law which limited the rights of gay and transgender people easily won his primary over a candidate who sought to describe House Bill 2 as contrary to Republican values. Mecklenburg County Sen. Dan Bishop defeated Beth Monaghan.

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