Just in Time for Christmas, Robert Pittenger Primary Ads Get Religious

North Carolina Republican facing repeat challenge from former pastor

North Carolina Rep. Robert Pittenger, speaking to reporters in the Capitol earlier this month, is launching a TV ad campaign running through Christmas. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Facing a primary challenge from the same GOP candidate who nearly defeated him last year, North Carolina Republican Robert Pittenger is launching an ad campaign about “putting Christ back in Christmas.”

“Let’s end political correctness and put the true meaning of Christ back into Christmas,” Pittenger says in the ad, standing in front of a fireplace and Christmas tree as a holiday jingle plays in the background. 

The ad debuted Friday on cable TV. It airs on radio, digital and broadcast stations in the district beginning Monday and will continue through Christmas. Pittenger consultant Paul Shumaker said it’s a highly targeted buy with ads already running on Fox, ESPN and ESPN-2 to reach primary voters, especially during football season.

“The world does everything to squelch the joy and historical wonder of Biblical Christmas and our traditions,” Pittenger said in a statement.

“As a privileged member of our government, I am honored to take the onslaught from the political correctness elite to help inspire every American to proclaim Merry Christmas with all the joy and peace of this special season,” he added.

Watch: Three Things to Watch as Alabama Barrels Toward Dec. 12

Pittenger barely won his June 2016 primary, defeating  Mark Harris, the former pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, by just 134 votes in a recount. Harris is running again in 2018, potentially with the backing of Steve Bannon, the former adviser to President Donald Trump.

Bannon’s allies have cast the race as an opportunity to launch a strike against GOP strategist Karl Rove, who has backed Pittenger. Harris told The Associated Press over the weekend he hasn’t yet talked with Bannon. 

Harris raised slightly more than Pittenger during the third quarter, including a small personal contribution to his campaign. But Pittenger ended the quarter with more cash on hand and has personal money he could still invest in his race.

The primary is May 8.

During the 2016 election, the FBI investigated allegations that Pittenger illegally transferred money from his former real estate company to his 2012 campaign account. But the bureau closed the investigation earlier this year with no charges filed.

Pittenger is also facing a Democratic challenger, who outraised both him and Harris and has more money in the bank. Marine veteran and businessman Dan McCready raised $416,000 during the third quarter, ending September with $700,000.

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

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