Updated 12:00 a.m.

GREENSBORO — After a long and bitter summer runoff, Mark Walker took the second GOP primary for the 6th Congressional District Tuesday night in an upset victory with 60 percent of the vote, according to complete but unofficial returns.

“First of all, thank you,” Walker said to the thunderous cheers and applause of his supporters gathered at Life Community Church in Jamestown. “This shows that we the people are still in charge of this country.”

Phil Berger Jr., the Rockingham County district attorney, dramatically outspent Walker and had high-level political connections throughout the state.

“I was absolutely surprised,” said Greensboro City Councilman Tony Wilkins, who supported Berger. “Just based on the huge amount of political machinery he had working for him, I thought Phil Berger Jr. was more electable.”

Berger’s father, Phil Berger Sr., is president pro tem of the N.C. Senate and one of the most powerful Republicans in the state. Berger won endorsements from a virtual who’s-who of big Republican names from state Sen. Trudy Wade to retiring U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, who is giving up the 6th District seat after 30 years. Keep Conservatives United, a super PAC that worked exclusively to support Berger and attack his opponents, spent nearly $200,000 on his behalf.

Walker campaign manager Julie Emmons said it was the outcome number crunchers said couldn’t happen.

“But there’s always been something about Mark you can’t measure,” Emmons said.

Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes said Walker had a better connection with the people of the district, which spans 10 counties.

“This is real,” he said, looking out at the room of supporters. “It wasn’t PAC money or special interests. It was this groundswell of people who believe in him.”

Barnes and other also cited the negative campaign run by Berger and the super PAC that supported him.

“It’s been like watching a train wreck in slow motion,” said Carla Harper, precinct judge at Mendenhall Middle School. “I want people to engage in the voting process, and this kind of thing is what turns a lot of people off to politics.”

Walker likely picked up votes cast for other candidates in the May primary, including Zack Matheny and Bruce VonCannon. Both candidates polled strongly in Guilford County and both were attacked by Keep Conservatives United leading up to the first primary.

Tom Phillips, who served 12 years on Greensboro City Council, was heavily involved in Matheny’s campaign in the first primary, and cast his vote Tuesday for Walker.

“Phil Berger Jr. has been so negative from Day One, and I think he’ll do whatever his dad tells him,” Phillips said. “That’s just more of the same, and we don’t need that. If Berger Jr. wins today, I’ll be casting my vote for a Democrat in the fall for the first time ever. I feel that strongly about it.”

Walker built a strong foundation of supporters, starting with the congregation of Lawndale Baptist Church, where he was music minister. Long before the runoff outcome was certain, Paster Joe Giaritelli of Lawndale Baptist predicted Walker would win not only the GOP nomination, but the general election.

“This is part of his calling,” Giaritelli said. “He’s wired for this. He has principles and he cares about people.”

Walker credited his strong grassroots support. He said his supporters made 15,000 calls on his behalf in the last two days.

“In a small turnout election this certainly shows you the power of the grassroots,” said Jeff Hyde, a Berger supporter. “It shows the power of the personal connection, that face-to-face advocacy for a candidate.”

The election went to a runoff when neither candidate captured 40 percent of the vote in the crowded May primary with nine GOP contenders. Berger finished with 34 percent and Walker with 25 percent. In May, the candidates got roughly equal vote percentages in Alamance and Guilford, where most of the votes were cast.

But on Tuesday night Walker took an early lead in Guilford, Alamance and even Berger’s home county of Rockingham, where Walker took 53 percent to Berger’s 47.

In an emotional concession speech from his campaign wrap party at the Marriott hotel in downtown Greensboro, Berger addressed the divisions created by a rough primary and rougher runoff. After congratulating Walker, he urged his supporters to support him against Democrat Laura Fjeld in November.

“It is important that we unify as a party behind the Republican candidate,” Berger said.

“It will be a tough election, but with your help and the help of his supporters we will retain Howard Coble’s seat,” Berger said.

Fjeld wasted no time appealing to those disappointed by a Walker win.

“Those mainstream Republican voters who are disappointed with their extremist nominee have a home in my campaign,” Fjeld said in a written statement Tuesday night. “ I represent mainstream North Carolina values, and will work with Republicans, Independents, and Democrats to create jobs and improve education.”

Walker said he looks forward to facing Fjeld.

“My opponent seems like a very professional, classy lady,” Walker said. “But we couldn’t be more opposite in how we believe this country should be run.”


Updated 11:10 p.m. Tuesday

GREENSBORO — After a long and bitter summer runoff, Mark Walker took the second GOP primary for the 6th Congressional District Tuesday night in an upset victory with 60 percent of the vote, according to complete but unofficial results.

“First of all, thank you,” Walker said to the thunderous cheers and applause of his supporters gathered at Life Community Church in Jamestown. “This shows that we the people are still in charge of this country.”

Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. dramatically outspent Walker and had high-level political connections throughout the state.

“I was absolutely surprised,” said Greensboro City Councilman Tony Wilkins, who supported Berger. “Just based on the huge amount of political machinery he had working for him, I thought Phil Berger Jr. was more electable.”

Berger’s father, Phil Berger Sr., is president pro tem of the state Senate and one of the most powerful Republicans in the state. Berger won endorsements from a virtual who’s-who of big Republican names from state Sen. Trudy Wade to retiring 6th District U.S. Rep. Howard Coble. Keep Conservatives United, a super PAC that worked exclusively to support Berger and attack his opponents, spent nearly $200,000 on his behalf.

But in the end, that modern David vs. Goliath scenario may have inspired GOP voters exhausted by the negative tone of the campaign to turn to Walker, a former Baptist minister from Greensboro with deep ties to the community.

“This was a grassroots effort from the beginning,” Walker said. “It shows that with enough time and resources, it’s still possible for we the people to win the nomination.”

Walker said his supporters made 15,000 calls on his behalf in the last two days.

“In a small turnout election, this certainly shows you the power of the grassroots,” said Jeff Hyde, a Berger supporter. “It shows the power of the personal connection, that face-to-face advocacy for a candidate.”

The election went to a runoff when neither candidate captured 40 percent of the vote in the crowded May primary with nine GOP contenders. Berger finished with 34 percent and Walker with 25 percent. In May, the candidates got roughly equal vote percentages in Alamance and Guilford, where most of the votes were cast.

But on Tuesday night, Walker took an early lead in Guilford, Alamance and even Berger’s home county of Rockingham, where Walker took 53 percent to Berger’s 47.

One question going into the second primary was which candidate could pick up the votes cast in the first primary for Bruce VonCannon, Zack Matheny, and Jeff Phillips, who also polled strongly in Guilford County.

Walker, VonCannon and Matheny were all targeted in the primary by Keep Conservatives United. Walker was hoping supporters of those candidates, still smarting from the attack ads, would support him in the runoff.

Of the original GOP candidates in the race, VonCannon, Don Webb, Mike Causey and Charlie Sutherland have since endorsed Walker.

Likewise, many Republican Party stalwarts said Berger’s negative campaigning left them with a strong negative impression.

Tom Phillips, who served 12 years on Greensboro City Council, was heavily involved in Matheny’s campaign, and cast his vote Tuesday for Walker.

“Phil Berger Jr. has been so negative from day one, and I think he’ll do whatever his dad tells him,” Phillips said. “That’s just more of the same, and we don’t need that. If Berger Jr. wins today, I’ll be casting my vote for a Democrat in the fall for the first time ever. I feel that strongly about it.”

In an emotional concession speech from his campaign wrap party at the Marriott hotel in downtown Greensboro, Berger addressed the divisions created by a rough primary and rougher runoff. After congratulating Walker, he urged his supporters to support him against Democrat Laura Fjeld in November.

“It is important that we unify as a party behind the Republican candidate,” Berger said.

“It will be a tough election, but with your help and the help of his supporters we will retain Howard Coble’s seat,” Berger said.

Fjeld wasted no time appealing to those disappointed by a Walker win.

“Those mainstream Republican voters who are disappointed with their extremist nominee have a home in my campaign,” Fjeld said in a written statement Tuesday night. “ I represent mainstream North Carolina values, and will work with Republicans, Independents, and Democrats to create jobs and improve education.”


Updated 9:47 p.m.

GREENSBORO — A harsh Republican Party fight for a shot at an open North Carolina congressional seat goes to Mark Walker.

His opponent, Phil Berger Jr., has conceded the primary race, stating: "It is important we unify as a party behind the Republican candidate. ... We must unify, we must come together" to retain Howard Coble's seat.

GOP voters in the district that runs along the Virginia border from Mount Airy to north of Raleigh picked Walker, a Baptist minister of Greensboro, over Berger of Eden. Berger is the Rockingham County district attorney and son of powerful state Senate leader Phil Berger.

Walker won 56 percent of the vote in unofficial returns and now advances to face Democrat and retired University of North Carolina system administrator Laura Fjeld in November.

The winner will replace 30-year GOP incumbent Howard Coble in the heavily Republican 6th Congressional District.

Tuesday's Republican primary runoff featured Walker and Berger trading accusations of cronyism, lying, and incompetence.


Updated 9:30 p.m.

Mark Walker appears to have won the 6th Congressional District GOP runoff race tonight, thus far getting 58 percent of the vote to Phil Berger Jr.'s 42 percent, with 196 of 241 precincts reporting

Here's a portion of statement issued by 6th District Democratic candidate Laura Fjeld after Walker's apparent win.

"Mark Walker won the bitter Republican runoff today by appealing to far-right Tea Party voters," Fjeld stated.

“Mark Walker is a radical extremist who doesn’t share the values of North Carolinians. He wants to raise taxes on millions of working families. Walker believes that women who are the victim of rape or incest should be forced to carry the resulting pregnancy. Walker would even outlaw some forms of birth control. This is 2014, we should be talking about jobs, not banning birth control,"  Fjeld's statement reads.


Updated 9:05 p.m.

The Associated Press is declaring Mark Walker the winner in the 6th District GOP contest for U.S. House District 6.

Walker had 58 percent of the vote against Phil Berger Jr., with 191 of 241 precincts reporting.

Check back at news-record.com for updates.


Updated 7:55 p.m.

With the polls now closed, state and local election officials are counting the results in today's runoff election for the Republican nomination in the 6th Congressional District race.

In Guilford and Rockingham, the 6th Congressional District race is the only one on the ballot for the second primary, or runoff.

Voters will decide whether Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. of Eden or former minister Mark Walker of Greensboro will be the Republican nominee in that race. The winner will face Democrat Laura Fjeld of Hurdle Mills in the Nov. 4 general election.


Updated 12:40 p.m

Turnout for today’s second primary election for the Republican nomination for the 6th District Congressional seat has been steady, said Guilford County Elections Director Charlie Collicutt.

Collicutt, who visited some of the sites today, said they were “doing pretty well.”

“Everybody has somebody coming in,” Collicutt said.

Some sites have had more than 100 voters. Some, with many fewer eligible voters, have had fewer, he said.

Election officials don't expect any difficulties when officials begin counting ballots, Collicutt said.


Updated: 8:35 a.m.

GREENSBORO — After an early surge at some polling locations this morning, things have quieted said Guilford County Elections Director Charlie Collicutt.

A few precincts had people show up at 6:30 a.m., Collicutt said. People also aren’t calling his office, Collicutt said.

“When we’re not getting a lot of phone calls, that means it’s slow,” he said.

When the Elections office is busy, people call to ask if they are eligible or where they need to go to vote, he said.

“It’s a very precise set of people who are eligible to vote — based on party, where you live, and are you in District 6, if you’re unaffiliated,” Collicutt said.

He expects that his office will be busy around lunchtime and after work, he said.

Anyone who has questions about whether they are eligible to vote for this election, or who has questions about where to vote should call the Guilford County Elections Office at (336) 641-3836.


Posted: 8:06 a.m.

News & Record cameras caught up with Mark Walker this morning as he cast his vote in the run off to see which Republican candidate will run for the 6th Congressional District seat in November.

Walker, a former minister, is running against Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. of Eden to see which will be the Republican nominee in the November race.

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Contact Susan Ladd at (336) 373-7006, and follow @SusanLaddNR on Twitter.

Contact Joe Killian at (336) 373-7023, and follow @JoeKillianNR on Twitter.

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