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GOP voters in North Carolina 9th U.S. House district picking new candidate for race rerun

Tuesday’s primary will narrow field of Republican challengers to face Democrat Dan McCready

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

CHARLOTTE (CFP) — Voters in North Carolina’s 9th U.S. House District will go to the polls Tuesday to vote in primaries for a seat that has been vacant since state elections officials refused to certify the winner of last November’s election over allegations of absentee ballot fraud.

On the Democratic side of the ballot, Dan McCready, who narrowly lost the seat in November, faces no opposition. But on the Republican side, nine candidates are jockeying for their party’s nomination after last year’s GOP nominee, Mark Harris, dropped out of the election rerun.

State Senator Dan Bishop

To clear the primary without a runoff in North Carolina, a candidate needs 30 percent of the vote, and pre-election polling has shown State Senator Dan Bishop of Charlotte right at that threshold and ahead of the other candidates in the crowded field. He has the backing of much of the Republican establishment, including Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.

The only other candidate in double-digits in polling is Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing, who has gotten Harris’s endorsement.

The district stretches across south-central North Carolina from the Charlotte suburbs to near Fayetteville.

Democrats have high hopes of flipping the seat, which McCready lost to Harris by just 900 votes. He has raised more than $2 million since November and will start the general election campaign with a $1.6 million war chest.

However, Republicans in the legislature changed state law to force a primary in the special election, which cleared the way for the party to jettison Harris, whose campaign had seriously wounded by allegations that one of his campaign operatives had engaged in absentee ballot fraud in Bladen County, a rural outpost at the eastern end of the district.

After a new election was ordered, Harris — citing health concerns — declined to run.

Bishop, 54, is a social conservative best known as one of the authors of North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” a law passed in 2016 which required transgendered people to use the restroom assigned to their birth gender in public facilities. After a public outcry and organized boycotts of the state, the law was repealed in 2017.

His campaign has been endorsed by the North Carolina Values Coalition, a conservative group that supported the restroom restrictions.

Stony Rushing as Boss Hogg

Rushing, 47, who owns a gun range, has drawn attention for dressing like Boss Hogg, the fictional political boss in “The Dukes of Hazard,” during his re-election campaign to the county commission in 2018. During the congressional campaign, he has defended Harris, saying the fraud allegations had been “blown out of proportion” and that state elections officials had erred by ordering a new vote.

McCready, 35, is a Marine Corps veteran and solar energy entrepreneur making his first bid for political office.

If no Republican candidate clears 30 percent, a runoff will be held in September. The GOP winner will face McCready in November.

Residents of the 9th District have been without representation in Congress since Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger left office in January.

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