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Trump ‘needs to weigh in... now’ on North Carolina special election, GOP rep who lost primary says

Former GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger wants president to help unify party behind one candidate to focus on defeating Democrat Dan McCready

Former North Carolina Rep. Robert Pittenger urged President Donald Trump to weigh in on the special election primary in his old district. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Rep. Robert Pittenger, the most recent person to hold North Carolina’s vacant 9th District seat, urged President Donald Trump on Friday to help the GOP “coalesce” behind a someone by choosing his preferred primary candidate as early as possible.

“The president does need to weigh in on this now,” Pittenger said in a radio interview Friday with WBT in Charlotte.

If a dozen Republicans jump into the race and empty their campaign coffers in the primary for the chance to face the likely Democratic nominee, Dan McCready, that could prove a costly misallocation of resources in a district that Republicans feel they should win, the former three-term congressman said.

Trump carried the 9th District by about 12 points in 2016. But the November midterm result that got thrown out last week was much closer — Republican Mark Harris led McCready by 905 votes. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the special election Toss-up.

There is already a burgeoning field of prospective GOP candidates.

“My hope and prayer is that Mr. Trump steps in and says, let’s coalesce behind this person,” Pittenger said.

As the first special election after the 2018 midterms — when Democrats took back a majority in the House for the first time in eight years — Pittenger predicted that the special election in North Carolina’s 9th District will be a referendum on the president and his policies.

“The whole country will be looking at this election,” Pittenger said.

Pittenger left the House in January after losing his 2018 primary to Harris, a Baptist minister, who will not run in the special election after the North Carolina state board of elections threw out his November victory last week and ordered a new election.

The board found that one of Harris’ campaign consultants may have swung the results of that election by running an illegal absentee ballot tampering scheme.

The five-member board has not yet set dates for the primary and general elections in the 9th District.

Simone Pathé contributed to this report.

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