12 Super Tuesday primaries to watch in Texas and North Carolina

Get caught up on the most competitive Senate, House and governor races.

February 29, 2024, 3:34 PM

Next week, 16 states (plus American Samoa!) are holding primaries or caucuses on Super Tuesday, the busiest day in the primary calendar in presidential election years. But president, schmesident — the real primary action is further down the ballot! Races for the Senate, House and governor are all heating up and worth a look.

We’ll start our three-part Super Tuesday preview today in the South, with a few (OK, 12) notable races in North Carolina and Texas. Tomorrow, we’ll tackle Alabama and California, then we’ll turn to the presidential primary early next week. So without further ado, here are the most exciting and contested primary races in the Lone Star and Tar Heel states.

North Carolina

Races to watch: Governor; 1st, 6th, 8th, 10th and 13th congressional districts
Polls close: 7:30 p.m. Eastern

The biggest race in the Tar Heel State on Tuesday — for governor — is not particularly competitive. Both the Democratic and the Republican primaries have a clear front-runner. For the GOP, it’s Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, an Army veteran and devout Christian who has a Trumpian habit of speaking candidly — often veering into offensive or bigoted language, which has landed him in hot water. The frontrunner for the Democrats is Attorney General Josh Stein, who has raised more funds than any candidate on either side.

This race is still worth keeping an eye on, though, because it will be competitive come November. Despite its Republican lean on the presidential level, North Carolina has had a Democratic governor for seven years, serving as a counterweight (or foil, depending on your point of view) to the state legislature’s Republican majority (which became a supermajority in both chambers last year).

The primaries get spicier in races for the U.S. House, after the state’s congressional map was completely redrawn this year to give Republicans an advantage. As a result, North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District — a huge, mostly rural district that spans 22 counties and includes a high proportion of Black residents — is set to be the state’s only competitive congressional race this fall. This district hasn’t elected a Republican since 1883, but the new maps redrew the 1st District in such a way to make it a toss-up.

The GOP primary has two candidates. Sandy Smith, a MAGA fixture in local politics, has run for office twice before and was endorsed by former President Donald Trump when she ran (unsuccessfully) for this seat in 2022. She’s a bit of a firebrand who said she was in Washington, D.C., during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and she drew headlines in the midterms when her ex-husband accused her of domestic violence.

The other candidate is retired U.S. Army Colonel Laurie Buckhout, a wealthy businesswoman and recent transplant to the state who has spent more than $1 million of her own money boosting her campaign. The establishment-backed Congressional Leadership Fund is supporting Buckhout, likely due to fears about Smith’s weaknesses as a more extreme candidate. Incumbent Democratic Rep. Don Davis, meanwhile, is probably hoping to face Smith in the fall.

North Carolina’s 6th District, which surrounds Greensboro, is currently represented by Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning — but she isn’t seeking reelection, and no Democrats are running to replace her after the district became much redder under the new maps. Instead, six Republicans are duking it out to be on the ballot in November in a battle among different factions of the GOP.

Former Green Beret Christian Castelli may have some residual name recognition after running as the Republican nominee for this seat in 2022. Former Rep. Mark Walker, a pastor, is hoping to reclaim the district he represented (under different boundaries) from 2015 to 2021 and has been endorsed by CPAC. Bo Hines, a former wide receiver for North Carolina State University, is running for Congress again after a failed bid for the Raleigh-area 13th District in 2022. Hines has the endorsement of the conservative Club for Growth. Trump, meanwhile, is backing Addison McDowell, a lobbyist who previously worked for Sen. Ted Budd. Plastic surgeon Mary Ann Contogiannis and High Point Mayor Jay Wagner are also running in this packed race.

The GOP primary to replace Republican Rep. Dan Bishop (who is running for state attorney general) in the deep-red 8th District outside Charlotte has also attracted six candidates. However, two have emerged as the likely frontrunners. State Rep. John Bradford, who has poured $1.3 million of his own money into his campaign, is squaring off against Baptist minister Mark Harris.

Bradford had been running for state treasurer but jumped into the congressional race at the end of last year. Harris, meanwhile, is seeking redemption after his 2018 congressional win was thrown out due to allegations that a consultant for his campaign committed absentee-ballot fraud. Harris was never criminally charged and now says he was the true victim.

Rep. Patrick McHenry (the bowtie-bedecked congressman who, you may remember, served as speaker pro tempore when the House was without a leader this past October) likewise announced at the end of last year that he would not seek reelection, opening up his solidly red 10th District. While five candidates are running for the GOP nomination, two names in particular are drawing the most attention.

State Rep. Grey Mills has represented the region in the General Assembly twice (2009-2013 and 2021-present). He’s taken a hardline stance on immigration in part to attack and differentiate himself from frontrunner Pat Harrigan. Harrigan, a gun manufacturer, was the Republican nominee in the then-more Democratic 14th District in 2022. At that time, he promoted his belief in a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and compared deportation to tactics used in Nazi Germany, a comment that Mills and others have resurfaced to try to paint Harrigan as soft on immigration.

Finally, the 13th District is yet another district where the sitting member of Congress opted not to seek reelection; first-term Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel opted not to run again after redistricting made his seat virtually unwinnable for a Democrat. The GOP primary for this seat has attracted no fewer than 14 candidates (just one Democrat is running). Among the most prominent candidates are Fred Von Canon, a businessman who has made two prior runs for Congress; Kelly Daughtry, an attorney who came in third in the Republican primary in 2022; Brad Knott, a former federal prosecutor; and DeVan Barbour, a local businessman who came in second in that 2022 primary. This race looks like a jump ball and may even go to a May 14 runoff if none of the candidates can clear 30 percent of the vote.


Races to watch: Senate; 7th, 12th, 18th, 26th and 32nd congressional districts
Polls close: 8 p.m. Eastern in most of the state, 9 p.m. Eastern in the western tip

Among the most interesting races to watch this year is for the Senate in Texas. Democrats are hoping to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz in the Lone Star State this fall, which will be a challenge, but not necessarily out of reach in the still-Republican-leaning state (you may recall former Rep. Beto O’Rouke came within 3 percentage points of Cruz back in 2018). As such, the Democratic primary for Senate has attracted a lot of attention — and cash.

Nine candidates are running, two of whom are noteworthy. The front-runner is Rep. Colin Allred, a former NFL player and civil rights attorney who has represented the Dallas area since 2019. Allred has raised the most funds (to the tune of $21 million) and attracted donations from party influencers like Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s husband. And he has a track record of flipping Republican seats: When first elected to Congress, Allred ousted an 11-term incumbent by 7 points.

Also gaining steam is state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who gained prominence for his passionate response to the Uvalde school shooting in 2022, which happened in his district. Gutierrez has spent more than a year pushing his fellow lawmakers to do more to respond to the shooting, such as investigating the lack of police response and banning assault weapons. He too has a long career in office, having served in the state House for 13 years before being elected to the state Senate, and also has won in historically red areas. While Allred is lapping Gutierrez in polling, with such a crowded field, there is a chance the primary could go to a May 28 runoff before we know for sure who will be challenging Cruz come November.

Texas has plenty of House primaries of interest too. In the 7th Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher may have expected to cruise to reelection after her Houston-area district, which originally was more of a swing seat, became safely Democratic after redistricting. But Fletcher, who is a member of the centrist New Democrat Coalition, is facing a challenger from the left who is hoping the bluer district would prefer a more progressive candidate.

That candidate, Pervez Agwan, had been gaining steam, raising more than $1 million without any self-contributions or PAC donations and attracting endorsements from the local Democratic Socialists of America and Sunrise chapters. But his campaign may have been irreparably derailed by sexual harassment allegations against both Agwan and senior campaign staff and the arrest of his organizing director. A recent poll from the University of Houston showed Fletcher defeating Agwan by 67 points.

To the north in Fort Worth, 81-year-old Republican Rep. Kay Granger will be retiring at the end of this year after nearly three decades in Congress, touching off a scramble to replace her in the solidly Republican 12th District. Five Republicans are vying for the nomination, but the two front-runners epitomize the familiar battle for the future of the GOP: the results-focused conservatism of the old guard versus the firebrand populism of MAGA.

In another era, state Rep. Craig Goldman would have been the natural successor to Granger. Goldman has represented the area in the state House since 2013, where he is the Republican Caucus chair and has a reliably conservative voting record. He has the endorsement of Republican heavyweights like Gov. Greg Abbott and former Gov. Rick Perry. He was also among the majority of state House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump-aligned state Attorney General Ken Paxton on accusations of abusing the power of his office to help a friend and donor. That has drawn the ire of Paxton, who has endorsed Goldman’s biggest competitor: local business owner John O’Shea. O’Shea takes a distinctly more Trumpian tack, saying he’d consider joining the far-right House Freedom Caucus if elected and making statements about the country being on a path to “full-blown cultural neo-Marxism.”

Over in the 18th District, which loops around Houston, Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee is facing a serious challenge from former Houston City Councillor Amanda Edwards. The 74-year-old Jackson Lee has represented the district since 1995 and may have easily won a 16th consecutive term were it not for an ill-fated run for Houston mayor last year. While Jackson Lee was dedicating time, money and energy to her mayoral campaign, her up-and-coming challenger (who once interned for Jackson Lee) was busy building her congressional campaign, and the veteran congresswoman has had to play catch up. A recent University of Houston poll put Edwards well within striking range of Jackson Lee.

In the Republican race to fill the 26th District to replace retiring Rep. Michael Burgess, two far-right candidates are leading a slate of 11. One is Brandon Gill, the 30-year-old son-in-law of Dinesh D’Souza, the far-right commentator who proliferated conspiracy theories that the 2020 election was stolen with his deeply inaccurate film, “2000 Mules,” which Gill heavily promoted on his website. The other is Southlake Mayor John Huffman, who has his own history with election misinformation. Southlake has gained national attention over the years for issues of bullying and racism within its school system. This deep red district is a Republican stronghold, so whoever wins the primary is all but guaranteed to replace Burgess in Congress (though, when asked about the race, Burgess told the Texas Tribune, “No one can replace me!”).

As Allred makes his play for the Senate, his Dallas-area 32nd District is up for grabs, and it’s a crowded Democratic field. In total, 10 candidates are running, though two in particular seem to be leading the pack: state Rep. Julie Johnson and trauma surgeon Brian Williams. Johnson is well known in the area both for her time in the state House and as a local Democratic organizer and activist. Johnson, who’s gay, is a member of the LGBTQ+ caucus and has worked to block anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the state. If elected to Congress, she’d be the first openly LGBTQ+ representative elected in a Southern state. Williams, meanwhile, is a former health policy advisor to Sen. Chris Murphy and worked on the 2022 federal gun safety legislation, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Both candidates have strong political bona fides and progressive platforms that will likely appeal to the diverse, blue district. But with so many candidates, this is yet another primary that just might go to a runoff.

CORRECTION (Mar. 1, 2024, 11:12 a.m.): A previous version of this article stated that 15 states and American Samoa were holding primary elections on Super Tuesday. However, the deadline for voters to return their mail-in ballots in the Iowa Democratic caucuses is also Super Tuesday, and the Republican contest in American Samoa — which is a caucus, not a primary — will actually occur on Friday, March 8. The article has been updated to reflect the fact that 16 states, but no territories, are holding primaries or caucuses on Super Tuesday.

CORRECTION (Mar. 4, 2024, 2:04 p.m.): A previous corrected version of this article omitted American Samoa from the count of states and territories holding primaries or caucuses on Super Tuesday because the Republican contest in American Samoa will occur on Friday, March 8. However, there will be a Democratic caucus in American Samoa on March 5. This article has been updated to reflect that.

Related Topics