Holding beats Ellmers in U.S. House District 2 primary

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Rep. George Holding (WTVD)

George Holding supporters crammed into a room at this north Raleigh Hibernian noshing on sliders and enjoying an open bar. Around 8:30 p.m., they had official reason to celebrate. The Associated Press called the race in Holding's favor after this rare primary faceoff between two sitting members of Congress.

Rep. Holding mingled through the room, cautiously optimistic, as the results seemed to be going his way. Then, came the news.

View full election results here

"I understand the Associated Press has made a call," Holding announced to the crowd.

Holding had emerged triumphant in his rough-and-tumble Republican primary battle with Rep. Renee Ellmers and Greg Brannon, a Cary physician.

If you've watched TV during the last month and a half, you know Ellmers and Holding flooded the airwaves; an ad war about who was the true conservative.

Watch: Raleigh voter Karen Guillard on why she came to the polls Tuesday.
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Karen Guillard on why she came to the polls Tuesday.

"My record as a member of Congress was attacked. My votes were attacked. And I had to respond to it," Holding said at the victory party.

The Ellmers-Holding primary was the first time in four years that two incumbents have faced off in a primary. After a federal court ruled Holding's 13th Congressional District had been racially gerrymandered by state lawmakers, Holding jumped into the race for Ellmer's 2nd Congressional District seat.

Holding successfully won over voters with the help of more than $1 million in outside money from conservative groups who accused Ellmers of not being conservative enough. The Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity paid for thousands-of-dollars-worth of ads.

WATCH: Raleigh voter Joe Gillen on why he came to the polls Tuesday.
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Joe Gillen on why he came to the polls Tuesday.

"There are a lot of conservative groups that came in to help. In fact there are so many groups that helped, I had to get a list," Holding said as he read from a prepared list of his conservative benefactors.

Ellmers abruptly canceled plans for an election night party. And after Holding's victory, Ellmers released a written statement. "The Second District deserves a strong, conservative advocate..." Ellmers said. "This was the standard from which I operated each day, and while I regret it will not be an opportunity afforded to me for another term, I am grateful for the experience to have served."

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Sarah Stephen on why she came to the polls Tuesday.

In 2010, Ellmers rode a Tea Party wave of support to victory over Democratic incumbent Bob Etheridge. But after 6 years in Washington, Ellmers ran afoul of her conservative base here at home. Tuesday night, Ellmers lost her seat. Her days in Washington are numbered.

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Steve Daniels explains what you need to know when heading to the polls Tuesday

Meanwhile back in the reliably-Republican 2nd Congressional District, George Holding is all but guaranteed a general election win in November.

In other races, Tenth District Rep. Patrick McHenry of Denver, the chief deputy whip in the House, pushed back three challengers Tuesday in his Republican primary, receiving nearly 80 percent of the votes cast. McHenry faces Democratic nominee Andy Millard of Tryon in November.

First-term Rep. Mark Walker in the 6th District defeated Chris Hardin of Browns Summit in the Republican primary. Waiting for him in the general election is Democrat Pete Glidewell.

The 2nd District Democratic nominee will be Raleigh attorney John McNeil, who with most precincts reporting had a 2-to-1 lead over his closest competitor in the five-candidate race. McNeill will take on incumbent Republican George Holding, who defeated fellow Rep. Renee Ellmers and Greg Brannon earlier Tuesday.


Sue Googe of Cary won the Republican 4th District primary over Teiji Kimball and will take on veteran Democratic Rep. David Price of Chapel Hill.

Veteran U.S. Rep. Walter Jones Jr. of North Carolina won the 3rd District Republican primary over a former Bush administration official for the second consecutive election cycle.

Partial unofficial results Tuesday have Jones receiving two-thirds of the votes cast, with Taylor Griffin of New Bern and Phil Law of Jacksonville splitting the rest.

Griffin narrowly lost to Jones in the 2014 primary for the eastern North Carolina district. Griffin and Law had planned to run against Jones in the March primary and refiled when court-ordered redistricting delayed House races by three months.

Jones has been in Congress since 1995. He's been a frequent critic of House Republican leaders and opposed the Iraq war.

Jones will take on Tuesday's Democratic primary winner, Ernest Reeves of Greenville, who beat David Allan Hurst, in November in the GOP-leaning district.

In the 5th District, GOP Rep. Virginia Foxx of Banner Elk won her primary Tuesday over Pattie Curran of Kernersville and in November will be challenged by Democrat Josh Brannon, another Tuesday winner.

Nearly complete, unofficial results showed Foxx with more than 70 percent of the vote. She's been in Congress since 2005 and is one of a handful of elected leaders in the House Republican Caucus.

Rep. Renee Ellmers (left) and Rep. George Holding (right).

Eighth District Rep. Richard Hudson of Concord beat Tim D'Annunzio of Raeford in the GOP primary and will take on Democrat Thomas Mills in the fall. Hudson led D'Annunzio by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

Turnout was sparse at two Wake Forest polling places Tuesday afternoon where a couple of voters said they picked Republican doctor George Brannon over both incumbent members of Congress in the Republican primary in the 2nd Congressional District.

At a polling place in a shopping center, retired engineer John D. Kwasnick said he picked Brannon despite voting for U.S. Rep. George Holding during the last election.

He said he just felt that Brannon was a bit more conservative than Holding.

At a nearby church, lawyer Mark Montgomery said he picked Brannon at the last minute and had ruled out Ellmers early on. He said he thought she didn't stay true to her conservative principles, agreeing with the message of some of the anti-Ellmers attack ads.

Voters at Apex Baptist Church were divided over whom they support in the race.

Greg Fiorentino said he saw little substantial difference between Ellmers' and Holding's work in Washington, but he was swayed to Ellmers because he saw her running a less negative election campaign.

Hugo Canedo said he voted for Holding because he considers him the more conservative of the two representatives.

The most significant influx of money has come from outside groups seeking to defeat Ellmers or elect Holding.

The Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and American Foundations Committee combined have spent well over $1 million, accusing Ellmers of not being conservative on fiscal issues and failing to challenge President Barack Obama's administration.

The ad blitz made an impression on attorney Mark Montgomery of Wake Forest, who made up his mind at the last minute to vote for Brannon over Holding. He ruled Ellmers out earlier because of her record on spending.

"She didn't do what she promised, and instead followed the Washington elite," he said. "She didn't hold Obama's feet to the fire."

Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds and a Wake County Superior Court judge have advanced to the general election for a seat on North Carolina's highest court.

Unofficial and nearly complete results show Edmunds and Michael Morgan finishing one-two in Tuesday's officially nonpartisan primary for the bench. Trailing were Sabra Faires of Cary and Daniel Robertson of Advance.

Edmunds. who is from Greensboro, has served on the Supreme Court since 2001. The state Republican Party sent mailers and automated recorded calls featuring Gov. Pat McCrory urging people to vote for Edmunds. Morgan was backed by the state Democratic Party.

Last year, there seemed to be no need for a primary because the General Assembly passed a law allowing Edmunds to run by himself this coming November in an up-or-down referendum. But Faires and others sued, calling the "retention election" idea unconstitutional, and a three-judge panel agreed.

Seventeen Republican candidates in the race for the 13th District GOP nomination has been reduced to one as a political newcomer pulled away from a crowded field.

Ted Budd of Advance fended off the other Republican candidates - including several state legislators - to win Tuesday's primary in the newly redrawn 13th. Complete, unofficial results showed Budd received 20 percent of the vote. Three other candidates had slightly over 10 percent each.

Budd owns a gun store and was boosted by about a half-million dollars in support from the Club for Growth.

The district's five-candidate Democratic primary was too close to call. Results show Bruce Davis of High Point leading Bob Isner of Greensboro by a little over 100 votes. A recount was possible.

The 13th essentially became an open seat when current 13th Rep. Holding decided to run in the 2nd, closer to his Raleigh home.

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The NC governor says he'll keep his promise and support the presumptive GOP nominee.

ABC11's Jon Camp and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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