Campaigns

Club for Growth backs a woman in 17-person North Carolina primary

Celeste Cairns is one of three women running for GOP nod in safe seat

The Club for Growth PAC has backed one of the three women vying for the GOP nomination in a safe Republican seat. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call.)

The Club for Growth PAC backed accountant Celeste Cairns in the crowded primary for North Carolina’s 3rd District on Wednesday, elevating one of three women seeking the nomination in this safe Republican seat. 

Seventeen Republicans are vying for the nomination for the eastern North Carolina seat that has been vacant since Walter B. Jones died earlier this year. A candidate must win at least 30 percent of the vote in the April 30 primary to avoid a runoff in July. 

Spending on Cairns’ behalf from the PAC in this relatively cheap media market could help her distinguish herself from the rest of the field. In a similarly crowded GOP primary in North Carolina’s 13th District in 2016, the club’s endorsement (and subsequent spending) helped now-Rep. Ted Budd separate himself from a 17-person pack

Cairns lives in Carteret County now but previously moved around overseas with a husband in the Army Special Forces. She is the cousin of Texas GOP Rep. Lance Gooden, who was elected to Congress last fall. The club’s PAC attacked Gooden in his primary for the 5th District last year, but the group feels differently about how Cairns would approach taxation. 

“Celeste Cairns’ background in the private sector gives her insight into how the economy works and the burden government regulations place on businesses and families,” Club for Growth President David McIntosh said in a statement Wednesday.

With the GOP conference down to just 13 women in the 116th Congress, it’s noteworthy that a conservative outside group that has traditionally been a major player in Republican primaries is backing a woman in a safe Republican seat. Although national Republicans recruited more than 100 women to run for the House last year, many of them lost in primaries, with the party traditionally prioritizing ideology rather than identity in internecine battles. 

The two other women running in the 3rd District are Michele Nix, the former vice chairwoman of the state Republican Party, and pediatrician Joan Perry, who has the backing of the political arm of Susan B. Anthony List. Its Women Speak Out PAC has spent about $51,000 on digital ads and mailers for Perry. 

Watch: Banging gravel, pseudoscience and texts from mom: Congressional Hits and Misses

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