North Carolina gears up for competitive special election in 9th District

Simone Pathe, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- With the Republican drama in North Carolina's 3rd District special primary runoff now settled, attention in the Tar Heel State shifts to the more competitive of the two House special elections to be held Sept. 10.

Voters in North Carolina's 9th District will choose a new representative in a redo election of last fall's contest, which was never certified because of ballot fraud connected to the Republican candidate's campaign.

Democrat Dan McCready, who trailed Republican Mark Harris narrowly at the end of last fall's voting, announced Wednesday he raised more than $1.7 million during the three months ending June 30. He has $1.8 million in the bank, according to his campaign. His official fundraising report has not yet been filed with the Federal Election Commission.

McCready is up against a new GOP challenger. State Sen. Dan Bishop won a 10-way primary outright earlier this year, easily clearing the 30% threshold to avoid a runoff. Bishop has not yet announced his fundraising total, but had $184,000 in his account on April 24.

McCready had the advantage of not facing a primary. He's been fundraising nonstop since last fall. A solar energy financier and Marine veteran, McCready has been regarded as a strong recruit in this Charlotte-area district, which President Donald Trump carried by 12 points in 2016. He earned a spot on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Red to Blue list for competitive challengers last cycle, and he's once again running with the support of End Citizens United and VoteVets.

Trump is coming to North Carolina next week, although he's not going to the 9th District. He'll hold a rally in Greenville, which is in the solidly red 3rd District. GOP voters there on Tuesday nominated state Rep. Greg Murphy as the GOP nominee to replace the late Walter B. Jones, who died in February. Murphy, who ran with the backing of the political arm of the House Freedom Caucus, easily defeated pediatrician Joan Perry, who had the support of all 13 GOP women in Congress. Murphy will face Democrat Allen Thomas in the race.

In the 9th District, McCready was seeking to build on his fundraising total Tuesday with an appeal asking supporters to split a $3 donation between his campaign and that of Marine veteran Amy McGrath, who announced her Senate campaign in Kentucky.

"Amy and I got to know each other campaigning for our House seats in 2018," McCready wrote in the email, which was a way to tap into grassroots donor enthusiasm for defeating Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McGrath's campaign later announced it raised more than $2.5 million within 24 hours of her announcement.

But tying McCready to Democrats outside North Carolina is exactly how Bishop's campaign is hoping to keep this seat in Republican hands. Bishop's ad slams McCready as "the wrong Dan," and shows a cardboard cutout of McCready with cutouts of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

In the wake of Tom Steyer's presidential announcement Tuesday, Bishop's campaign tried to tie McCready to the billionaire activist who has been pushing for President Donald Trump's impeachment and aggressive action against climate change. Steyer donated to McCready's campaign last year.


"Will China Dan be Steyer's running mate???" blared an email from the National Republican Congressional Committee on Tuesday. The NRCC has also called the Democrat "Dan McChina," alluding to allegations that McCready's company invested in solar farms with ties to a company that purchased parts from China. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC backed by GOP leadership, is accusing McCready's company of outsourcing. An attorney for the company told WFAE those attacks were "demonstrably false."

Bishop's campaign has also hit McCready for positions espoused by Democratic presidential candidates in last month's debates, such as covering health care for immigrants are in the country illegally.

McCready said during the 2018 campaign that he would not vote for Pelosi for speaker. "I'll always put country over party," McCready says in a recent TV spot.

Reminiscent of the midterm strategy that netted them 40 seats last fall, Democrats have tried to tie Bishop to the national GOP on health care and taxes. In rolling out a plan to lower prescription drug costs last month, McCready promised to stand up to "Big Pharma and special interests," underscoring a get-money-out-of-politics message.

In appeals for contributions, McCready and his allies have leaned into Bishop's sponsorship of the so-called bathroom bill, a state law that required people using bathrooms in government-run facilities to use the room corresponded to the sex on their birth certificates. The 9th District is still a conservative district, but Democrats hope that the economic impact of HB2 may turn off some business-friendly suburban voters from Bishop.

And now they have a new headline to argue that Bishop is too extreme for the district. A McCready fundraising email Tuesday circulated a Huffington Post headline that read, "Republican Compared Anti-LGBTQ Proposal To Saving Jews From Holocaust." Bishop had referred to Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist who helped Jews escape the Nazi regime, in an email about securing exemptions for business owners from local anti-discrimination laws.

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