Northern Orange County Republican runoff voters narrowly gave Republican Mark Walker the win over fellow Republican Phil Berger Jr. — 274 to 264 votes, according to the state Board of Elections. But the overall vote in the 6th Congressional District GOP primary runoff wasn’t even close. Mark Walker trounced Berger, 6o percent to 40 percent. Carolina Journal’s Barry Smith reports.
Berger, son of state Senate leader Phil Berger Sr., built a huge lead in fundraising over Walker, reporting more than $460,000 during the election cycle to Walker’s $315,000. Berger also outspent Walker in advertising by a 6-1 margin. But Walker focused on grass-roots campaigning, including the use of phone banks, yard signs, and door-to-door canvassing of the district, which paid off.
Immigration became a key issue in the district following last month’s defeat of U.S. House Majority Leader Erik Cantor, R-Va., by university professor Dave Brat, who chided Cantor for his support of immigration reform.
Following Cantor’s loss, both Berger and Walker tried to convince GOP runoff primary voters that they were strongly opposed to “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. Walker, who thanked voters in the 6th District who nominated him, said the margin of victory surprised him.
“We wouldn’t be very truthful if we told you we expected to win with 60 percent,” Walker said late Tuesday night.
He said he could not identify a point where the tide turned to his favor.
“I think it was just a message over 14 months,” Walker said. “We continued to build people before politics.”