Entering Tuesday's 13th District Republican congressional primary, Ted Budd didn't need to greatly outdistance the big field -- just requiring one more vote than his nearest competitor in the winner-take-all race.
But the 44-year-old gun range owner from Advance did far better than that. The first-time politician crushed the 17-candidate field, collecting nearly twice as many votes (6,308 to 3,293) as N.C. Rep. John Blust of Greensboro to win the GOP's spot on the November ballot.
Budd will face Democrat Bruce Davis of High Point, who narrowly won his five-person primary on Tuesday.
Tuesday's primaries were a winner-take-all affair, with no runoff by decree of the state legislature. Thus, a simple plurality was all a candidate needed. That prompted intense campaigning in their own communities by most candidates, believing voter turnout would be low and they could win with just 4,000 or so votes.
The new 13th District spreads from Mooresville, through almost all of Iredell, and Davie, Rowan, Guilford, and Davidson counties.
Budd, the biggest spender in the field and who recently received $265,000 in advertising money from the conservative political action group Club for Growth, captured 20 percent of the total vote, an impressive number considering the large field of candidates.
Hank Henning, an Iraq War veteran from Jamestown, and longtime N.C. Rep. Julia Howard of Mocksville placed third and fourth, respectively, among Republicans, while Iredell County Register of Deeds Matt McCall was fifth in unofficial totals.
In a statement issued after his win, Budd said it is "critical that (Republicans) unite over the next five months if we want to send a true conservative outsider to Congress who will defend their values in Washington, DC.
"My campaign knocked on over 2,500 doors during the past two months and the voters made one thing clear to me: they want Congress stop playing political games and address the problems that face this country," Budd added. "That is what I intend to do. Whether working to repeal Obamacare, protecting the 2nd Amendment, or standing up for family values, the voters of the 13th District voted for someone who is ready to go to Washington and fight the encroachment of big government."
McCall, of Mooresville, thoroughly dominated his own county by taking 34 percent of the vote to Budd's 20 percent, but couldn't quite keep up with Budd elsewhere.
Four other Iredell candidates finished down the field within the entire 13th -- Kay Daly, George Rouco, Chad Gant and David Thompson, none of whom got more than 2.79 percent of the total vote in the 13th District.
Budd's victory makes him the odds-on winner in November because the 13th District is predominantly Republican.
In the Democratic race, Davis outpolled Greensboro developer Bob Isner, 4,694 to 4,582.
Even though Iredell voter participation was low at 7.2 percent -- 8,186 of 113,102 registered voters going to the polls -- there were times during the day that it became brisk.
"Turnout has been surprisingly good,” said John Perrien, chief precinct judge at the Peninsula Baptist Church polling location in Mooresville. “Especially with the low early voting numbers, I expected it to only be a friends and family type of election.”
Chief Precinct Judge Cindy Desaussure at the Williamson's Chapel United Methodist Church polling location in Mooresville said that compared to March’s primary election, the turnout was low, but for the unique nature of the election, turnout was healthy.
“It has been a steady increase,” Desaussure said. “Even though I think the redistricting confused a lot of people, and others don’t really understand the purpose of this election.”
By noon, 100 ballots were cast at the Williamson's Chapel. Frank Phillips cast one of those, and said he voted for McCall. Phillips said he has always made an effort to vote, especially in those with smaller turnouts.
“It is more important than ever to vote in these elections,” Phillips said. “Because your vote now has more impact compared to those with bigger turnouts.”
Just like Phillips, fellow voter Pat Davidson has always been involved in politics since she was 18 and said she had done her research before casting her vote for Budd.
Davidson said she voted for Budd because of his support of the second amendment.