Retired Army Colonel Laurie Buckhout bested two-time candidate Sandy Smith in North Carolina’s First Congressional District Republican primary election. Buckhout will face Democrat incumbent Don Davis in the November general election.

Congressional District 1, which includes all or part of 19 counties in the northeastern part of the state, is considered the only real swing district on the new North Carolina congressional map. Incumbent Democrat Rep. Don Davis and Libertarian candidate Tom Bailey have no primary challengers and thus move forward to the November ballot for the general election.

Laurie Buckhout, of Edenton, is a former military officer and a first-time candidate. A retired Army colonel, Buckhout ended her 26-year military career as chief of electronic warfare for the US Army after serving in myriad leadership and staff positions. After retiring from the Army in 2010, Buckout founded Corvus Consulting, a strategic consulting and services group, and served as its CEO until selling the business in 2019.

Buckhout beat out Sandy Smith, the two-time Republican nominee for the district in 2020 and 2022.

“Thank you to the voters of North Carolina’s First Congressional District,” said Buckhout in a press release. “I am honored you have selected me as your Republican nominee. I would also like to commend Sandy Smith for a hard-fought campaign. I never thought this would be easy and she made me earn this victory tonight. She’s forced me to be a better candidate and I thank her. Now, we all have to work together and move forward because we have to stop the disastrous Joe Biden/Don Davis agenda!”

Buckhout, describes herself as a “proven conservative fighter running to defend North Carolina families” and to “put an end to the Biden agenda.” According to her campaign website, Buckhout promises to “fight for America First policies” such as, securing the border” and “rebuilding America’s military,” and pledges to “stand with our veterans.” Buckhout is endorsed in this primary by Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (ret); the chair of the North Carolina Freedom Caucus Rep. Keith Kidwell, R-Beaufort; and chair of the NC House Agriculture Committee Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin.

In recent electoral history, NC-1 was a relatively safe district for Democrats. However, after post-census redistricting, the general election race has become more competitive. The Cook Political Report 2024 House Race Ratings rate NC-1 a “Toss-Up,” as do other election ratings outfits. It is one of the poorest of North Carolina’s congressional districts, with a median household income about 80% of the statewide average and a poverty rate about 30% higher than the statewide average. The district is racially diverse, with a population that is 47% white, 40% black, and 7% Hispanic.

Multiple seats in the delegation are expected to flip Republican this post-redistricting election year, but NC-1 is the only consensus toss-up district in the state, after years as a safe seat for Democrats. 

With a potential expansion of the slim Republican majority in Congress running through North Carolina, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is paying special attention to the race.

“Laurie Buckhout’s primary victory puts this race firmly up for grabs for Republicans.” said NRCC Spokeswoman Delanie Nomar. “Laurie’s service as a combat Army colonel and time as a business owner perfectly contrasts self-serving D.C. Democrat Don Davis, who has burdened North Carolinians with his disastrous agenda of record-high inflation. Republicans are all-in to flip this seat red in November.”

The district, made more competitive in recent redistricting, could be a bellwether for softening support for top-of-the-ticket Democrats, such as President Joe Biden. North Carolina Republicans are expected to net at least three seats in Congress across the state’s delegation (currently split 7R-7D), NC-1 represents a potential fourth pick up for the GOP.

A recent Carolina Journal Poll showed Republicans with a growing generic ballot advantage of 5.9% when it comes to General Assembly races. As such, Buckhout may have wind at her back in a toss up fall election.