Republicans Mark Meadows and Vance Patterson will face each other in a July 17 runoff election to see who will represent their party against Democrat Hayden Rogers in the fall contest for the 11th Congressional District seat.
Garnering 38 percent of the vote, Meadows topped a crowded field that included seven other challengers in the May 8 primary. But the Cashiers resident, a real estate developer, didn't make the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. And after coming in second with 24 percent, Patterson forced the rematch. Third-place finisher Jeff Hunt, the district attorney for Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties, trailed far behind with 14 percent.
Patterson, a Morganton businessman, is making his second bid for Congress. He lost the 10th District Republican primary to incumbent Rep. Patrick McHenry in 2010. But last year’s redistricting by the North Carolina General Assembly carved Patterson's home out of the 10th and placed it in the 11th. The new 11th now includes Burke and Caldwell counties, stretching southwest all the way to Cherokee County. Buncombe County was split between both districts, with most of Asheville placed in the 10th and swaths of the county’s western and northern areas remaining in the 11th.
Many observers say the redistricting’s political goal was to siphon off enough Democrats from the 11th District to make incumbent Rep. Heath Shuler vulnerable while maintaining McHenry's solid base in the 10th. Shuler subsequently decided to retire when his term ends in January — leaving Rogers, his chief of staff, to run in his stead.
Rogers handily beat his primary competition, drawing 56 percent of the vote compared to 30 percent for the second-place finisher, Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell. Since then, Rogers has been free to focus on raising money and organizing for the fall campaign while both his potential Republican opponents duke it out. The district is among the most conservative in the state, however, which may give whoever emerges from the GOP runoff an edge in November.
Meadows and Patterson have both emphasized economic issues, touting their success in the private sector as the kind of experience that’s needed in Congress to help create jobs. Recently, however, both candidates have also attracted local and even national media attention by raising questions about President Barack Obama's citizenship and the United Nations’ potential to usurp U.S. sovereignty through Agenda 21 — its comprehensive sustainable-development plan. But while discussion of such issues might be aimed at rallying the conservative base in a runoff that's likely to have a small turnout, it's unclear how they'll play with the general electorate.
Read the candidates' responses to our questionnaire to get a better sense of their views and priorities.