Campaigns

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

Voters in the 9th and 3rd districts head to polls on Sept. 10

Voters in two North Carolina districts head to the polls on Sept. 10, but only the race in the 9th District is expected to be competitive. (Courtesy Bishop for Congress and Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer/AP file photo)

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

Voters in the 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 GOP nominee’s campaign. 

Democrat Dan McCready, who trailed Republican Mark Harris narrowly in last November’s election, announced Wednesday that he raised more than $1.7 million during the three months ending June 30. He ended the quarter with $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 opponent. State Sen. Dan Bishop won a 10-way primary outright earlier this year, easily clearing the 30 percent threshold to avoid a runoff. Bishop has not yet announced his fundraising total, but had $184,000 in his account on April 24. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the general election a Toss-up

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 the district that stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville and backed President Donald Trump by 11 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 safe red 3rd District. GOP voters there nominated state Rep. Greg Murphy on Tuesday as their 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 won his runoff against pediatrician Joan Perry, who had the support of all 13 Republican women in the House. Murphy will face Democrat Allen Thomas in race Inside Election rates Solid Republican

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 campaign against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell 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 McConnell. McGrath’s campaign later announced it raised more than $2.5 million within 24 hours of her campaign launch. 

Attacks fly

But tying McCready to Democrats outside of North Carolina is exactly how Bishop’s campaign is hoping to keep this seat in Republican hands. A Bishop 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 also tried to tie McCready to the billionaire activist who has been pushing for 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 Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC backed by House GOP leadership, 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. CLF is accusing McCready’s company of outsourcing. A lawyer for the company told Charlotte NPR affiliate 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 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,” he 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, or HB2,  a North Carolina law requiring people in government-run facilities to use the bathroom that 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 on Tuesday circulated a HuffPost 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 Nazi concentration camps in World War II, in an email about securing exemptions for business owners from local anti-discrimination laws. 

 Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.