- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 16, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Victories in North Carolina boosted Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s efforts to secure their parties’ nominations.

Clinton won the Democratic contest in North Carolina on Tuesday along with Florida and Ohio - two states seen as the day’s biggest prizes. On the Republican side, Trump topped Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in North Carolina to add to wins in Florida and Illinois.

North Carolina’s hefty cache of delegates drew both front-runners to multiple appearances ahead of the vote, stoking voter enthusiasm.

“I’m ready for the first woman president,” said Clinton supporter Ashley Wilson Brook in Raleigh. “She has America’s future at stake and at heart, and echoes all my beliefs. She believes in climate change. She wants women’s rights. She does not want to take us back. She wants to take us forward.”

Dorothy Leamon of Clemmons said she voted for Trump because she thinks he’ll shake things up in Washington.



“I think he is an innovator that can change the culture of the Washington people. I’m very interested in what he can do,” Leamon said.

Still, Leamon, who said she’s semi-retired and runs an accounting practice, would like to see Trump shift his campaign rhetoric: “I would like for him to tone it down a little bit, but I do like that he’s a leader. And I think that has been missing for so long in the Obama administration.”

North Carolina has traditionally held presidential primaries in May, but legislative leaders decided in 2013 to move up the date to be more competitive.

Democrats will distribute 107 convention delegates and Republicans will allocate 72 delegates based on the presidential primary results. Both state parties allocate their delegates proportionally, either based on results by congressional districts or statewide.

The state’s Democrats also have 14 superdelegates that can make their own endorsement decisions and aren’t obligated to follow Tuesday’s totals.

Clinton’s victories in multiple states were a significant blow to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, putting her in a commanding position in the Democratic race.

But on the Republican side, Tuesday night’s results - including a win by Ohio Gov. John Kasich in his home state - didn’t bring clarity to the question of whether Trump can reach the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination.

Connie Rhoads said her decision in the GOP presidential primary was hard, but she chose Cruz.

“Faith is a big thing,” Rhoads said as she exited a precinct in Winston-Salem. “Protection of separation of church and state the way the Constitution intended it.”

Leaving a Raleigh voting location, Pier Williamson said he picked Kasich.

“Of all the candidates, he’s level-headed. Overall, I think he has good policy and procedures in place,” the lawyer and real-estate broker said.

He said he was frustrated with the rest of the Republican field, and he described the tone of the campaign as: “Terrible, god-awful.”

“It’s just too negative. It’s funny at times. Trump’s funny, but I think he has no business running the country.”

___

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Allen G. Breed, Emery P. Dalesio and Martha Waggoner in Raleigh; and Tom Foreman Jr. in Winston-Salem.

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