- Associated Press - Friday, June 3, 2016

MOCKSVILLE, N.C. (AP) - This central North Carolina town’s next U.S. representative could become the favorite to secure the seat with fewer votes than the 3,800 spectators it takes to fill Davie County’s War Eagle Stadium on a fall Friday night.

Seventeen Republican candidates are vying to represent the state’s 13th District after court-ordered redistricting this year created a race with no incumbent. Combined with what’s expected to be a low turnout for the unusual June 7 primary, the crowded field means a candidate could win with a few thousand votes and a razor-thin margin. The primary winner is expected to have a strong chance at winning the general election in the Republican-leaning territory.

“It is basically the Wild West,” said J. Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at nearby Catawba College. “I wouldn’t be surprised if No. 1 and No. 2 are separated by less than 100 votes.”

There’s been more foot traffic than normal for the first week of June at the Davie County GOP Headquarters in this town of about 5,000 that’s 20 miles west of Winston-Salem.

Don Giles, who runs the headquarters, said he’s been fielding questions and advising people to study the candidates.

“Some of them have already made their minds up. They just want a ballot,” Giles said. “But you’ve got to do your homework.”

Bitzer estimated that around 45,000 votes would be cast in the primary by Republicans and unaffiliated voters if there’s a 15 percent turnout - similar to a midterm primary. But the unusual date during the summer makes it hard to predict, and he wouldn’t be surprised if less than 10 percent showed up at the polls.

There will be no primary runoffs this year, meaning a candidate could win with far less than half the votes.

“It will be badly splintered,” he said.

He said it could take as few as 3,000-4,000 total votes to win.

Helping to boost the crowded field, a one-time change in the law allows candidates to run in the congressional primary while also seeking another elected position this year. They would normally be barred from running in two races.

Among the GOP hopefuls are four state legislators - Sen. Andrew C. Brock and Reps. Julia Howard, Harry Warren and John Blust - who are all on the November ballot for their legislative seats.

If one of them wins the Congressional primary, they will have to decide if they want to run for Congress or the General Assembly. They will not be able to run for both positions in November.

Others with less name recognition have raised enough money to make a serious run. Dan Barrett of Advance, Kay Daly of Mooresville and Ted Budd of Advance have all raised six-figures in campaign funding according to federal filings. Budd has also benefited from about a half-million dollars in support from the Washington-based conservative Club for Growth.

In addition to those seven candidates, the other people seeking the GOP nomination are Chad Gant, Farren Shoaf, George Rouco, Hank Henning, Jim Snyder, Matthew McCall, Vernon Robinson, David Thompson, Jason Walser and Kathy Feather.

Bitzer said the odd shape of the district, which stretches from the western side of Greensboro to the northern edge of the Charlotte metro area, makes television advertising difficult because it covers two media markets.

“With the likelihood of such low voter turnout, the candidates have to go after the reliable voters, and that’s primarily done on the ground,” he said. “That means getting people out, going door to door.”

Whoever wins will be favored to win the seat in this GOP-leaning seat and will face one of the five Democrats squaring off in their primary. Running on the Democratic side are Adam Coker, Bruce Davis, Bob Isner, Mazie Ferguson and Kevin D. Griffin.

Outside the county GOP headquarters, Billy Key said he had no idea there were 17 people running for the Republican nomination. He said he stopped by because he needed some help determining which conservative candidate fit his requirements.

Key said he wants to vote for someone who is conservative and can win. He was handed a sample ballot and advised to study the candidates.

Key, 74 and retired from the U.S. Navy, had wanted a Donald Trump sign for his front yard, but there were none available. He was given a blue-and-white Vote Republican sign instead.

“I want to vote. I’ve got to vote.” he said.

___

Drew reported from Raleigh.


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