North Carolina’s Robert Pittenger Is First Incumbent to Lose in 2018

GOP congressman fell to repeat primary challenger Mark Harris

North Carolina Rep. Robert Pittenger has lost a GOP primary rematch with former pastor Mark Harris. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

North Carolina Rep. Robert Pittenger is the first incumbent of 2018 to lose, falling to former pastor Mark Harris in Tuesday’s 9th District Republican primary.

Harris defeated Pittenger 48.5 percent to 46 percent, reversing the result from two years ago when the latter won by just 134 votes in a recount.

President Donald Trump carried the district, which stretches along the South Carolina border and includes affluent neighborhoods of Charlotte and its suburbs, by 12 points in 2016. Pittenger and Harris both sparred over loyalty to the president. 

After his close call two years ago, Pittenger seemed to be taking his re-election more seriously this year. His campaign had outspent Harris as of the pre-primary reporting period. And he started earlier than he did two years ago. His campaign debuted a Christmas ad last year to try to undercut Harris’ message.

Pittenger also wasn’t facing an FBI investigation that dogged him two years ago, when he was running in a newly redrawn district and had to introduce himself to new voters. 

Harris could face a competitive general election against a Democratic recruit who’s outraised Pittenger. Solar energy financier and Marine veteran Dan McCready easily won his primary Tuesday night.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Likely Republican.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina’s 3rd District, 12-term Republican Rep. Walter B. Jones won a contested three-way primary for what he has said will be his final term. With his opponents splitting the anti-Jones vote, the incumbent comfortably moved on to the general election with 43 percent of the vote. Inside Elections rates the race Solid Republican

Watch: 5 Things to Watch in Tuesday’s Congressional Primaries

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