Home to Concord, Kannapolis and the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Cabarrus County is a suburban county northeast of Charlotte. The changes seen in the county represent a microcosm of what North Carolina has undergone in the last decade. In a recent political update, NC Chamber Political Director Kirk O’Steen takes a closer look at political trends and dynamics in Cabarrus County and explains which races to watch on primary night.
Cabarrus County is one of the fastest growing counties in North Carolina. Previously known as a sleepy “bedroom” county for commuters in the Charlotte area, Cabarrus County has made a name for itself and achieved many successes.
After several companies relocated out of the county, Cabarrus was left with a significant hole in its employment numbers. Local business leaders and economic developers met to discuss what was needed to reinvent the area. With the help of new leadership on the County Commission, Cabarrus County started the transition from an anti-development to pro-growth county. Over the next several years, Cabarrus worked to make itself a more attractive destination and prepared its infrastructure to host new economic development projects. Additionally, the downtown areas of Kannapolis and Concord have been revitalized to be more appealing to residents. Two examples of Cabarrus’ successful transformation are the North Carolina Research Campus, a biotech innovation space location in Kannapolis, and a beverage manufacturing hub opening soon.
These changes aren’t celebrated by all. Many Cabarrus County residents are opposed to the growth the county is experiencing and would even say that Cabarrus is “closed” or “at capacity.” The growth versus anti-growth dynamic is one that is ever-present in local politics, particularly on County Commissions. Similar debates continue across North Carolina in areas experiencing significant in-migration.
Historically, Cabarrus has been a reliable county for Republicans. However, shifting demographics and the significant influx of new families to the area have changed the political dynamic of the region. Countywide, Cabarrus is still mostly safe for Republicans. But some state legislative races over the last few years have been very competitive.
House District 73 is a great example. Before Tricia Cotham changed her party affiliation in 2023, this was the seat that prevented North Carolina House Republicans from gaining a 72-seat super majority in the state legislature. Democrat Diamond Staton Williams defeated Brian Echevarria by just 629 votes.
House Districts 82 and 83 also proved to be competitive in 2020 when Kristin Baker and Larry Pittman defeated Aimy Steele and Gail Young by narrow margins.
Looking ahead to the Upcoming Election
With the new legislative maps, the districts won’t be quite as competitive as previous general elections. But that doesn’t mean that Cabarrus County will be quiet in 2024. The eyes of the North Carolina political scene will be fixed on Cabarrus County as it features three high-profile state house primaries in House District 73, House District 82, and House District 83. Each race provides a clear contrast between ideologies within the Republican party.
House District 73
The new House District 73 favors Republicans in most elections. Because of this, whoever emerges in the Republican primary is likely to win in the general election against incumbent Diamond Staton-Williams.
Holly Edwards is a homebuilder who owns a local construction company. She previously served on the Cabarrus County Board of Education and was appointed to serve on the North Carolina Education Legislative Committee. Edwards is endorsed by retiring incumbent legislator Dr. Kristin Baker as well as Cabarrus County Sheriff Van Shaw.
Jonathan Almond is a controller of a management group that operates several local franchise restaurants. Almond is endorsed by former NC House Freedom Caucus member Larry Pittman.
House District 82
The new NC House district map scrambled Cabarrus quite a bit. House District 82 is now home to Kevin Crutchfield, who currently represents parts of Cabarrus and Rowan Counties in House District 83. Crutchfield owns a local commercial sign company and earned the distinction of 2023 NC Chamber Jobs Champion for his work to support the business community. Challenging him is Brian Echevarria, who narrowly lost in House District 73 in 2022. Brian has owned a few businesses over the years and is a licensed real estate broker. While Crutchfield has an advantage as an incumbent, much of his district includes areas he does not currently represent. Echevarria did not win in 2022, but he still became known in the area after over $1 million was spent for and against him when he ran against Diamond Staton-Williams. This will be the race to watch on primary night.
House District 83
House District 83 covers the Northwestern tip of Cabarrus County, as well as parts of southern Rowan County. In this primary, Grant Campbell, a combat veteran and practicing OB/GYN, is running against Brad Jenkins, a pastor from Rowan County who also served in the military as a helicopter pilot. Campbell has already received strong support from the current House leadership and is expected to run a strong campaign. Brad Jenkins’ strength will certainly be in Rowan County, where he previously served as Chair of the Rowan County Republican Party.
Cabarrus County is experiencing a boom in growth and seeing new families move to the area every day. However, the changing landscape of the county isn’t welcome by all. Cabarrus is right in the middle of the urban/rural divide and has had to be strategic in how to move forward. Like other suburban counties across the state, heated debates continue on what the future of Cabarrus County will look like.
The March 5 primary should tell a lot about which way the political winds are blowing. Until then, we will continue to watch as these races unfold.