Baptist Pastor Mark Walker defeated Rockingham District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. Tuesday to win the Republican nomination in North Carolina's open 6th District.
Walker garnered 57 percent to Berger's 43 percent, with 59 percent of precincts reporting, according to The Associated Press.
The 6th District is open this cycle because GOP Rep. Howard Coble is retiring .
Coble, 83, initially stayed out of the Republican primary, opting to let voters choose from the nine Republican candidates vying for the nomination. But when none of the candidates received the necessary 40 percent to avoid a runoff, Coble waded into the race, throwing his support behind Berger. GOP operatives in the state thought Coble's endorsement and subsequent presence on the trail would help Berger win Tuesday's runoff.
But as results came in, GOP operatives said they were surprised at the margin, saying flash-flooding in Berger's home county and low turnout overall could have played a role in Berger's loss.
Similarly, GOP operatives say Walker's ties to Lawndale Baptist Church and its thousands of congregants also helped to secure his win on Tuesday.
Walker now moves on to face former University of North Carolina administrator Laura Fjeld, the Democratic nominee.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried the district with 58 percent in 2012, making it an uphill climb for Fjeld in November.
North Carolina’s 6th District is rated a Safe Republican contest by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.