Upturned 5th District Preparing For Primary Showdown

A primary race seems to be in the works in the 5th Congressional District with a new phone poll asking voters their preference in a possible primary between U.S. House Representative Virginia Foxx and Gaston County Commissioner Tracy Philbeck. Additionally, as recently as December 6th Tracy Philbeck took to Twitter asking his constituents to, “please continue to pray for me as we make a decision on whether God is leading us down the path to run for Congress.” Philbeck has the potential to pose a significant challenge as Gaston County makes up 28% of the population for the newly drawn district, none of whom were previously represented by Foxx.

Tweet from Tracy Philbeck saying he is considering entering the congressional primary.
Tweet from Tracy Philbeck indicating he is considering entering the Congressional primary.

When the 5th District was redrawn 59.86% of residents had never been previously represented by Virginia Foxx.  While the seat remains safe for Republicans, having so many new residents appears to have made Foxx vulnerable to a primary challenge.

Compounding matters for Foxx is the apparent rift that has emerged between her and the conservative base that makes up a large portion of primary voters. Conservative Review gave her a “D” grade based in part on her vote in favor of the so-called “Cromnibus Bill” in September 2018. The Cromnibus Bill (named for being a continuing resolution that fit into the definition of an omnibus bill) approved $855 billion in spending and it continued to allow Planned Parenthood to have access to federal funds via programs like Title X, which was particularly angering to conservatives. She was also dinged for voting in favor of a bill to end the government shutdown without providing funding for a border wall that President Trump had request.Though shortly afterwards funds were approved for 55 miles of fencing. 

In the first days after the new districts were revealed the names of NC House Speaker Tim Moore, of Cleveland County, and Gaston County Commissioner Tracy Philbeck were both mentioned as being potential primary challengers for Foxx. Speculation soon cooled when Common Cause, the group headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder, created uncertainty by announcing they would challenge the newly drawn districts in court. This allowed Foxx to get a head start in reaching out to new residents of the 5th District as she was willing to invest in social media ads, while potential primary challengers were reluctant to expend resources in a district they were unsure would ultimately exist.

Speaker Moore has since stated that he will not challenge Foxx in a primary.

This is one of three districts under the new maps that could see decisive primaries in which the winner would be favored to win the general election. The first of those is District 6 in Guilford and Forsyth counties, where former Guilford County Commissioner Bruce Davis is running in the Democratic primary against Kathy Manning—the 2018 nominee for district 13. The last is District 2, where 2016 Democratic nominee for US Senate Deborah Ross is one of potentially 4 candidates running in a district that is located entirely within Wake County.

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