A 21-year-old college student is headed to November’s general election after beating out a longtime state House representative in North Carolina’s Republican primary on Tuesday.

Wyatt Gable, who is earning his bachelor’s degree at East Carolina University, defeated North Carolina State House Representative George Cleveland by just under 2 percentage points, garnering support from a shade under 51 percent of Republican voters. The newcomer will now face Democrat Carmen Spicer in November for North Carolina’s District 14 seat in the state House of Representatives.

“I just think it came down to people wanting a fresh set of ideas,” Gable said after his win Tuesday night. “It took a lot of hard work by me and my team. A lot of doors were knocked, and phone calls were made.”

Cleveland, 84, was seeking his 11th term in the state House Tuesday night and brought a wealth of experience to the table. He’s been in office since 2005 and his legislative work has centered around personal freedom, low taxes and a business-friendly climate. Under Republican leadership, he credits his party for the state’s top business ratings and financial stability.

george cleveland wyatt gable north carolina
North Carolina Republican George Cleveland was ousted from office after nearly 20 years by Wyatt Gable, a 21-year-old college student.

North Carolina Legislature

On the other hand, Gable represents a younger generation seeking to bring fresh perspectives to the legislature. Gable markets himself as someone with insight into the public education system, given that he only graduated from high school a few years ago. He also promotes his time as a Turning Point USA president at his university, gaining experience with the conservative cause, including preventing bathroom policy changes.

While Cleveland was focused on continuing to foster a pro-business and personal freedom platform, Gable pushed for changes to address the lack of high-paying jobs and education.

“For education, we need to return to teaching home economics, hands-on classes like carpentry, history, and prioritizing physical education. Mental and physical health quality plummet when there is no athletic participation,” Gable told The Daily News of Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Gable wrote on his campaign website that he first got the idea to run for office during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he saw the government “stripping our rights away, with no one stopping them.”

Gable told reporters on Tuesday that as far as his next steps, he plans to “take a quick break. We have been working hard the last couple of months, but we look forward to putting in the work for November.”

Only about 95 votes separated Gable and Cleveland, but Gable’s win was enough to avoid a recount. In North Carolina, an automatic recount is triggered only if the victor was within a 1 percent margin of the vote.

Newsweek reached out to Cleveland and Gable via email for comment late Tuesday night.