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Brad Knott, backed by Trump, wins Republican runoff for North Carolina congressional district

FILE - Kelly Daughtry, Republican candidate for North Carolina's 13th District U.S. House of Representatives seat, speaks at a rally, Jan. 26, 2024, in Roxboro, N.C. North Carolina voters will choose between attorneys Kelly Daughtry and Brad Knott in Tuesday's Republican primary runoff for the reconfigured 13th Congressional District. Daughtry finished first, and Knott second, in the March 5 primary. (AP Photo/Chris Seward, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Brad Knott, a candidate backed by former President Donald Trump, won the Republican primary runoff for North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District on Tuesday over a rival who suspended her campaign two weeks ago in response to the endorsement.

The former assistant U.S. attorney defeated Kelly Daughtry, a local lawyer and the daughter of a former longtime Republican legislative leader. Daughtry had finished first among 14 candidates in the March 5 primary. But she failed to exceed the 30% necessary to avoid a runoff, which Knott sought as the second-place finisher.

In one of two statewide GOP primary runoffs Tuesday, Hal Weatherman, former chief of staff to then-Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, defeated Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill. The winner will take on Democratic state Sen. Rachel Hunt, daughter of former four-term Gov. Jim Hunt. Voters also were choosing a Republican nominee for state auditor.

Trump backed Knott in early April. It wasn’t until weeks later, on May 2, that Daughtry, who was also the top fundraiser in the primary, suspended her campaign and threw her support to her rival. But by then, early voting was well underway, and it was too late to take her name off the ballot.

Daughtry said Trump’s endorsement of Knott made clear to her “that a pathway to victory is no longer feasible.”

Knott’s victory once again highlights Trump’s history of successful interventions in North Carolina GOP politics.

Knott now advances to the November general election, where he’ll take on Democrat Frank Pierce in November. The GOP-dominated General Assembly reconfigured the 13th District last year so that it is more rightward leaning. The new district covers all or parts of eight counties in or close to the capital of Raleigh.

Current 13th District Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel chose not to run for reelection, citing the boundary changes. The seat is one of three the GOP expects to add to the U.S. House from North Carolina this fall, thanks to redistricting.

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, won North Carolina, the country’s ninth-largest state, in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, and the state is expected to be a presidential battleground this fall.

Trump’s social media post endorsing Knott called him a “Strong Patriot” who would support law enforcement, secure the U.S.-Mexico border and protect gun rights.

As for Daughtry, the daughter of a former longtime Republican legislative leader, Trump called her a “RINO” — Republican in Name Only — and someone who “is no friend to MAGA,” a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

This year marks the second time Trump has endorsed a Daughtry opponent; in a 2022 primary for the 13th District, he backed her challenger and then-political newcomer Bo Hines, the ultimate primary winner.

Trump also endorsed then-U.S. Rep. Ted Budd in the 2022 GOP primary for U.S. Senate. Budd easily defeated former Gov. Pat McCrory, then went on to win the general election. In the recent March primary, Trump backed first-time candidate Addison McDowell, who ended up winning the 6th Congressional District race.

The GOP auditor’s runoff featured candidates Jack Clark and Dave Boliek. The winner will take on Democratic State Auditor Jessica Holmes. Libertarian Party candidates also are running for auditor and lieutenant governor.

GOP runoff voting was open to registered Republicans and unaffiliated voters who either voted in the March Republican primaries or didn’t vote at all.

Gary D. Robertson, The Associated Press