RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina voters trickled in Tuesday to choose primary candidates for dozens of state and federal offices, including a highly competitive U.S. Senate seat and the state Supreme Court.
Eight Republicans sought their party's Senate nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, who had her own primary against two lesser-known opponents. Two contenders were challenging an incumbent Supreme Court justice.
Primaries for three congressional seats where incumbents are retiring or resigned also attracted multiple candidates. A handful of General Assembly incumbents faced spirited challengers from party candidates. Leading candidates needed more than 40 percent of the vote to avoid summer runoffs.
"American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken is seeking the 2nd District Democratic nomination against former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and counselor Toni Morris. Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers also had a GOP primary rival.
Total overall turnout was expected to be in line with the 14 percent generated in the last midterm primary election in 2010, Josh Lawson, a spokesman for the State Board of Elections, said early Tuesday evening. In-person early voting for the 10 days ending Saturday exceeded those generated in 2010.
Power or connection problems caused minor delays early Tuesday at one precinct each in Guilford, Alamance and Stanly counties. Three people were injured when they were hit by a minivan in the parking lot of a Concord church serving as a polling place, according to officials.
Thom Tillis of Huntersville, the state House speaker when the General Assembly turned Republican for the first time in 140 years, was the strongest fundraiser in the Senate GOP race and received support from Republicans including former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Pat McCrory.
Greg Brannon, an obstetrician from Cary, and Mark Harris, a Baptist minister from Charlotte, were Tillis' lead rivals. Both suggested Tillis wasn't conservative enough or has political baggage that would make it difficult for him to defeat Hagan in November.
Tillis, Brannon and Harris participated in three televised debates, along with Wilkesboro family nurse practitioner Heather Grant.
Teacher Pat Green, 43, of Charlotte said she voted Tuesday for Tillis because he had the best shot of unseating Hagan. After the primary, Green added, "we will all come together. The goal is making sure that Hagan doesn't get re-elected."
But Alan Myers, 34, of Charlotte, chose Brannon because of his strong anti-abortion position and unwavering support for conservative issues.
"He has tremendous grassroots support and would energize the base," Myers said. "And that's what the party needs: People going out, knocking on doors, telling their friends, getting out the vote. We're going to need that kind of commitment in November."
Libertarians were also holding a rare Senate primary. Tim D'Annunzio of Raeford and Sean Haugh of Durham faced off to win their party's nomination for the November election.
Voters in the Democrat-dominant 12th Congressional District were choosing nominees from both parties to succeed Rep. Mel Watt, who stepped down in January to take a federal post. Nine Republicans and two Democrats are running for the nominations in the 6th District, where GOP Rep. Howard Coble plans to retire after 30 years. Five candidates are seeking to succeed the retiring Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre in the 7th District.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Robin Hudson had two challengers for her seat. The two highest vote-getters in the officially nonpartisan race advance to face each other in the November general election. Hudson has been the target of campaign ads from an outside group questioning her dissenting opinion in a case involving satellite monitoring of convicted child molesters.
Tuesday's elections also featured primaries for other judgeships, district attorney and local government positions.