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Five Republicans, all serious contenders, are on the ballot today, which means a runoff is highly likely. A top contender is former Capitol Hill aide Richard Hudson, who has had the tacit support of both the Raleigh and Washington, D.C., Republican establishments. Heís been on the air with TV ads introducing himself to the district and has been backed by a radio ad and direct mail from the YG Action Fund, a super PAC affiliated with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
Itís not the only third-party group thatís been on the air for a candidate. The powerful pro-free-market Club for Growth and its affiliated organizations have put more than $300,000 behind dentist Scott Keadle, a former Iredell County commissioner.
Either Keadle or Hudson will probably end up as the nominee, but this primary has a wild card: Vernon Robinson, a former Winston-Salem city councilman. Robinson, a conservative African-American, is a perennial candidate who was the Republican nominee in the 13th district against Miller in 2006 and a candidate for an open seat in the 5th district in 2004. Heís known to have a strong, if not wide, base of support in the state, but itís unclear how that will translate into votes today.
Also in the race are neurosurgeon John Whitley, who had a sharp campaign ad earlier this year, and state Rep. Fred Steen.
Anything could happen in the primary, but the nominee will have a good shot at beating Kissell in this strong GOP district.
Democrats donít really have a shot here, and Republicans are almost sure to hold the seat of retiring GOP Rep. Sue Myrick. The top contenders among the 11 Republicans running are former state Sen. Robert Pittenger and Myrick-endorsed Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Pendergraph.
Pittenger, who has spent heavily on the race, probably has the edge. Pendergraph had some momentum but may have stumbled by lurching too far to the right in recent weeks. The Charlotte Observer editorial board rescinded its endorsement of him after he dabbled in birtherism, the false belief that President Barack Obama wasnít born in the United States.
Other strong candidates in the vast field include Army veteran and state Rep. Ric Killian and former Charlotte City Councilman Edwin Peacock.
Former Shuler Chief of Staff Hayden Rogers is likely to win the Democratic primary here against Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell. But Rogers faces a very steep slog in holding this seat for Democrats against whomever emerges from the eight-person GOP primary and likely runoff.
The top GOP contender is real estate investor Mark Meadows, a political novice who has built an impressive campaign operation from scratch across the district. He is likely to come out as the top vote-getter, but pulling more than 40 percent of ballots cast in such a crowded field seems a difficult task. Meadows is expected to win the runoff, if there is one, no matter who his opponent is. The second-place finisher appears likely to be businessman Vance Patterson. Also in the race are businessman Ethan Wingfield and local District Attorney Jeff Hunt.