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Congressional candidate Brad Knott wins NC’s 13th District race, AP projects

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May 15, 2024

Brad Knott, whose endorsement by former President Donald Trump chased off his opponent, won Tuesday’s runoff to decide the Republican primary, The Associated Press projected as results trickled in.

Knott took an early lead over Kelly Daughtry with more than 88% of the vote. That was with just 3,255 mail-in-absentee ballots and early voting in.

The AP called the race just before 8 p.m.

“I’m humbled and honored that the constituents of the 13th District have trusted me to be their Conservative representative in Washington, DC,” Knott said, in a written statement. “Now that the primary is behind us, we can focus on winning in November so that we can get to work on addressing serious problems facing our country with smart, conservative solutions.”

Celebratory messages from conservatives came quickly.

“Congratulations to Brad Knott on his primary victory,” said Delanie Bomar, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “As a former federal prosecutor who was tough on the cartels, Brad is a perfect antidote to extreme House Democrats’ dangerous wide-open border. North Carolina voters will overwhelmingly send Brad to Congress in November.”

A victory in the GOP primary by Knott, 38, would likely mean he will serve in Congress, after state lawmakers redrew the 13th Congressional district to strongly favor a Republican win.

However, Knott still faces Democratic candidate Frank Pierce in the general election on Nov. 5.

How did we get here?

The 13th Congressional District includes Caswell, Franklin, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Person and parts of Granville and Wake counties.

Rep. Wiley Nickel, a Democrat from Cary, currently represents the district, but chose not to run for reelection knowing that the political makeup of the district made it nearly impossible for him to win.

Instead, he’s pushing back against gerrymandering and looking at a potential Senate run in 2026.

With Nickel out, 14 Republicans — 13 men and one woman — entered the race.

Daughtry, 54, a Johnston County attorney, led all candidates in the March 5 Republican primary with more than 27% of the vote.

But North Carolina law requires a candidate to secure more than 30% to avoid a runoff with the person who came in second place.

And that was Knott, who won nearly 19% of the vote.

Knott asked for a runoff, but Daughtry continued to lead in internal polling.

Until one month later, when Trump came out and endorsed Knott, while telling voters that Daughtry “is no friend of MAGA.” Trump’s message flipped the race on its head.

Internal polls then showed that Daughtry’s 20-point lead became a 20-point deficit. Knott’s campaign released its poll in a news release just days before she dropped out. Her campaign didn’t feel she could overcome what Trump had done.

On May 2, Daughtry announced she would leave the race.

Daughtry’s decision came after more than 3,100 voters already cast ballots.

There was no official way for Daughtry to remove herself from the race, or stop the election, which means she did nothing more than stop campaigning.

If Daughtry were to win Tuesday night, but choose not to accept the seat, Knott would not have been declared the winner. Instead, the local Republican Party would choose the party’s nominee.

So Daughtry forced Knott into an odd position, forced to continue campaigning without a true opponent.

Who is Knott?

Knott, a former federal prosecutor, grew up in Raleigh, with family deeply rooted in the Triangle.

He is one of six siblings and part of a set of quadruplets.

Inspired by his father, he knew he wanted to be a prosecutor and continually applied for the job until landing a temporary position. That became permanent after he made a name for himself prosecuting a drug kingpin running one of the largest operations in North Carolina in decades.

But Knott chose to run for Congress after, he said, he watched President Joe Biden’s immigration policies make it harder for him to do his job.

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