By Ben Rappaport
Several candidates have filed for state and federal races in Bladen, Columbus, Robeson and Scotland counties for the 2024 election.
Republicans have maintained firm control of North Carolina’s Border Belt region in recent elections and will look to keep up the momentum.
Many incumbents in the region want to keep their seats, including Republican Congressman David Rouzer, Republican state Sen. Danny Britt and Democratic state House member Garland Pierce. While new maps drawn through redistricting will likely have minimal impacts in the region, they have opened the door for new challengers.
The filing period for candidates closed Friday. Partisan primaries will be March 5, and the general election is Nov. 5. Here’s a look at the local candidates.
Congress, District 7
Rouzer has represented North Carolina’s 7th Congressional district, which includes Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Cumberland, New Hanover, Pender and Robeson counties, since 2015.
Marlando Pridgen, a Democrat from Whiteville, filed to challenge Rouzer. Pridgen is a former educator for Columbus County Schools, and he is the CEO and president of the International Center for Educational and Economic Advancement, according to his LinkedIn page.
Congress, District 8
The newly drawn 8th congressional district includes parts of Robeson, Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties, and all of Union, Stanly, Anson, Montgomery, Richmond and Scotland counties.
Republican Dan Bishop, who currently holds the seat, is running for state attorney general.
Six Republicans are set to square off in the primary, which will determine who goes to Washington, D.C., as there is no Democratic candidate. The candidates are Allan Baucom, John R. Bradford III, Don Brown, Leigh Brown, Mark Harris and Chris Maples.
Harris’ return to the political landscape follows a ballot-harvesting investigation after Harris claimed victory in the 2018 election for the state’s 9th congressional district. The election was overturned, and McCrae Dowless, a Bladen County political operative, faced voter fraud charges. Dowless died in 2022 before his case went to trial. Harris, a Mecklenburg County preacher, was not charged.
Baucom, a farmer from Union County and political newcomer, said he entered the race because of a need for “honest conservative leaders to Washington to restore trust with the American people,” according to his campaign website.
Bradford, who currently represents Mecklenburg County in the state House, touted his experience in the private and public sectors in his campaign announcement, saying the district needs leadership that can “deliver results — not rhetoric.”
Don Brown, a Judge Advocate General in the Navy and author from Washington County, said he entered the race to “put an end to politically motivated prosecutions and unjust violations of our Constitution.”
Leigh Brown, a Cabarrus County real estate agent, says the “American Dream” is being lost for many residents. She says her experience in building a real estate business will allow her to advocate for families.
Maples, a UNC Pembroke graduate and Navy veteran, was an adviser for Bishop and an aide to Republican Congressman Richard Hudson in District 9, where he managed constituent relations in Anson, Richmond, Robeson, and Scotland counties. Most recently, Maples served as the director of external affairs at UNC Pembroke, where is taking a leave of absence effective Jan. 1.
N.C. Senate, District 24
Republican Danny Britt Jr. looks to maintain control of state Senate District 24, which includes all of Robeson, Hoke, and Scotland counties.
Britt, one of the most powerful Republicans in the legislature, is a Robeson County attorney who flipped the seat for the GOP when he was first elected in 2017.
Democrat Kathy Batt, a former combat pilot and FBI special agent, is challenging Britt.
N.C. Senate, District 9
Republican state Sen. Brent Jackson looks to return for another term in District 9, which includes all of Jones, Duplin, Pender, and Bladen counties, and most of Sampson County. Jackson has held the seat since 2011.
Jamie Campbell Bowles, a Sampson County Democrat and nurse, is challenging Jackson. Bowles ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2022.
N.C. Senate, District 8
Republican state Sen. Bill Rabon, who has been in office since 2011, wants to maintain control of District 8, which includes all of Brunswick and Columbus counties, and part of New Hanover County.
Democrat Katherine Randall, a Wilmington building supervisor, project manager and Appalachian State University graduate, is challenging Rabon.
N.C. House, District 48
State Rep. Garland Pierce, a Scotland County Democrat, has represented District 48 since 2005.
Garland has faced criticism for voting with Republicans on controversial bills, including the so-called “bathroom bill” that said people must use restrooms that align with their assigned sex at birth. He voted with Democrats earlier this year to oppose a 12-week abortion ban.
Three Republicans are vying to challenge Pierce — Ralph Carter, Melissa Swarbrick and James Diaz.
Carter is an orthopedic surgeon in Laurinburg, and Diaz is a veteran and Army instructor; both are political newcomers. Swarbrick ran against Pierce in 2022, when she earned 46% of the vote, including a majority in Scotland County. (Pierce won the race with 56% of the vote.)
N.C. House, District 47
Republican state Rep. Jarrod Lowery, who flipped District 47 to the GOP in 2022 when Charles Graham left the seat to run for Congress, wants another term in office.
Lowery said he mulled a run at Congress in N.C.’s 8th District but decided his skills were better utilized in the General Assembly.
“I believe this is a critical time for the future of Robeson County and we need leadership focused on getting results the people deserve,” Lowery told the Border Belt Independent. “We have a lot more work to accomplish.”
Eshonda Hooper, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Cumberland County Clerk of Court in 2022 and currently serves as CEO of the HoopStar Scholarship Program, is challenging Lowery.
N.C. House, District 46
Republican state Rep. Brenden Jones wants to keep his seat in District 46, which includes all of Columbus County and part of eastern Robeson County. Jones has served since 2011.
Edward Squires, a Whiteville Democrat and insurance provider, is challenging Jones. Squires lost his bid for a seat on the Columbus County Board of Commissioners in 2022.
N.C. House, District 22
State Rep. William Brisson looks to keep Republican control of District 22, which includes Bladen and Sampson counties. Brisson has held the seat since 2007 and was a Democrat until he switched parties in 2017.
Democrat Joshua Harrell, a Sampson County native, is challenging Brisson. Harrell said he decided to run because Brisson has not spent much time in the community.
“I think we need interactive representation,” Harrell told the Sampson Independent. “I’ve been going around the district now for the past couple months, and the current representative that’s in office, there’s not been any presence by him.”