Its official: there is going to be a runoff in the North Carolina Primary. Elaine Marshall managed to secure a strong plurality of the vote but just below the 40% threshold required by law to prevent a runoff election between the top-two vote-getters. Marshall will take on Cal Cunningham in a head-to-head runoff election on June 8th.
With 89.8% of precincts reporting:
Marshall ended the night with a strong 10-point lead over Cunningham, putting her in great position for the runoff. Cunningham is the establishment candidate, and has received significant support from Washington, DC Democrats. With Cunningham's weak performance tonight, it will be interesting to see if the party establishment will continue to inject reserves into his underdog campaign, or begin to rally around Marshall.
The need for another election day a few weeks later could be eliminated by adopting instant runoff voting, which allows voters to specify their second and third choices if their preferred candidate receives too few votes to qualify for the next round. There is currently a pilot program using the instant runoff voting in Hendersonville, NC.