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Republicans hold 9th District U.S. House seat in North Carolina

State Senator Dan Bishop defeats Democrat Dan McCready with last-minute help from Donald Trump

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

CHARLOTTE (CFP) — Republican State Senator Dan Bishop has squeaked out a victory over Democrat Dan McCready in a special election to fill North Carolina’s vacant 9th District U.S. House seat, keeping the seat in GOP hands.

U.S. Rep.-elect Dan Bishop, R-North Carolina

Bishop — bolstered by an election-eve campaign appearance on his behalf by President Donald Trump — took 51 percent in the September 10 vote to 49 percent for McCready.

Although McCready beat Bishop decisively in the part of the district in suburban Mecklenburg County in and around Charlotte, Bishop rolled up a 20-pont margin in exurban Union County, which was enough to put him over the top.

McCready’s defeat extinguishes Democratic hopes of making a breakthrough in the Tar Heel State, where they failed to flip a single U.S. House seat in 2018.

In another special election in the 3rd District, Republican State Rep. Greg Murphy defeated Democrat Allen Thomas, the former mayor of Greenville. The seat became vacant when longtime incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Walter Jones died in February.

Murphy took 62 percent of the vote to 38 percent for Thomas.

The 9th stretches from the suburbs of Charlotte east along the South Carolina state line toward Fayetteville. The 3rd is a mostly rural district that takes in the counties along the state’s Atlantic coast.

Last November, McCready fell 900 votes short in a race against Republican Mark Harris, but the State Board of Elections ordered a rerun of the election after allegations of absentee ballot fraud were raised against a contractor working for Harris.

The contractor is now facing criminal charges; Harris dropped out of the race, clearing the way for Republicans to pick Bishop as a replacement.

The seat has been vacant for nine months as the dispute over the seat lingered.

Bishop, 55, is a social conservative who has served in both houses of the legislature. He is 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 After a public outcry and organized boycotts of the state, the law was repealed in 2017.

Trump held a rally in Fayetteville Monday in which he heaped praise on Bishop and went on the attack against McCready, whom he accused of wanting “open borders,” “sanctuary cities” and gun control.

In 2016, Trump won the 9th District by 12 points, but the district swung toward the Democrats in 2018, part of a similar shift seen in suburban areas across the South.

While that shift allowed Democrats to make breakthroughs in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Richmond, Charleston and Oklahoma City, they came up short in all four targeted House races in North Carolina.

With the results Tuesday, Republicans will hold a 10-to-3 advantage in the Tar Heel State’s House delegation.

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Voters decide Tuesday who fills disputed North Carolina 9th District U.S. House seat

Donald Trump heading to Tar Heel state to rally Republicans ahead of vote

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

CHARLOTTE (CFP) — Voters in two North Carolina congressional districts will go to the polls Tuesday to fill vacant seats, with Democrats hoping to make a breakthrough by flipping the 9th District into their column.

In a sign of the national implications of the vote, President Donald Trump is heading to Fayetteville Monday to campaign for Republican State Senator Dan Bishop, who is in a tight race with Democrat Dan McCready in the 9th District.

Dan McCready and Dan Bishop

A McCready win would flip a House seat to the Democrats and add to the majority they won in 2018. The seat has been vacant for nine months after a narrow GOP win last November was overturned amid allegations of absentee ballot fraud.

In the 3rd District, Republican State Rep. Greg Murphy is heavily favored to win over Democrat Allen Thomas, the former mayor of Greenville. The seat became vacant when longtime incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Walter Jones died in February.

The 9th District stretches from the suburbs of Charlotte east toward Fayetteville. The 3rd District takes in the counties along the state’s Atlantic coast.

Polls point to a close race between McCready, a political newcomer who came close to winning in last November’s disputed election, and Bishop, a veteran state lawmaker whom Republican picked to replace their previous tarnished nominee.

In November, McCready fell 900 votes short in a race against Republican Mark Harris. But the State Board of Elections ordered a rerun of the election after allegations of absentee ballot fraud were raised against a contractor working for Harris.

The contractor is now facing criminal charges; Harris dropped out of the race, clearing the way for Republicans to pick Bishop in an effort to keep the seat.

Bishop, 55, is a social conservative who has served in both houses of the legislature. He is 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.

McCready, 36, is a Marine Corps veteran and solar energy entrepreneur making his first bid for political office.

Trump won the district by 12 points in 2015, but the district swung toward the Democrats in 2018, part of a similar shift seen in suburban areas across the South.

While that shift allowed Democrats to make breakthroughs in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Richmond, Charleston and Oklahoma City, they came up short in all four targeted House races in North Carolina. Winning Tuesday would be a bit of redemption.

Republicans currently hold a 8-to-3 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation, with two seats vacant.

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State Senator Dan Bishop wins GOP primary in North Carolina’s 9th U.S. House District

Bishop will now face Democrat Dan McCready in September special election

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

CHARLOTTE (CFP) — State Senator Dan Bishop from Charlotte has easily won the Republican primary in North Carolina’s 9th U.S. House District and will now defend the seat against Democrat Dan McCready in a September special election.

Bishop took 48 percent in the May 14 vote, well above the 30 percent he needed to avoid a runoff.

State Senator Dan Bishop

Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing came in second at 20 percent, followed by former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour at 16 percent.

McCready, who fell 900 votes short of winning the seat last November but got a second chance when the results of that election were tossed out, was unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Bishop’s victory sets up what is likely to be an expensive special election contest against McCready that will garner national attention for a seat Democrats hope to flip.

In his victory speech, Bishop came out swinging against what he called “liberal crazy” ideas like “socialism, open borders, infanticide [and] 90 percent tax rates.”

“Dan McCready went through two elections without telling anyone where he stood on anything,” Bishop said. “Voters in the 9th District deserve a clear choice, and we’re going to give them one.”

The 9th District seat has been open since state elections officials refused to certify the results of last November’s election amid allegations of absentee ballot fraud by a contractor linked to the 2018 Republican nominee, Mark Harris.

After the State Board of Elections ordered a new vote, Harris — who had defeated McCready by just 900 votes in November — opted not to run, clearing the way for Republicans to pick a new candidate.

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.

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

Since losing to Harris, McCready has raised more than $2 million and will start the general election campaign with a $1.6 million war chest.

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

The special election will be held September 10.

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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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, ChickenFriedPolitics.com 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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Republican Mark Harris drops out of rerun for North Carolina 9th District U.S. House seat

Harris cites ill health for bowing out of new vote triggered by voter fraud allegations against his campaign

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

CHARLOTTE (CFP) — Back in November, Mark Harris was poised to become North Carolina’s newest U.S. House member, after appearing to win by a razor-thin margin of just 905 votes.

But after being battered by charges that an operative working for his campaign engaged in absentee ballot fraud, Harris has now brought his once-promising quest for Congress to an end.

Mark Harris

Harris announced that he will not run in a new election in the 9th District ordered by the North Carolina State Board of Elections, which will allow Republicans to pick a new nominee to take on Democrat Dan McCready.

Meanwhile, the Harris operative at the center of the fraud allegations, Leslie McCrae Dowless, was indicted by a grand jury in Raleigh on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy. Four of his associates were also indicted.

Harris cited ill health, including surgery scheduled for March, for the his decision to drop out of the campaign.

“While few things in my life have brought me more joy than getting to meet and know the people of this incredible part of North Carolina … I owe it to (my wife) Beth, my children and my six grandchildren to make the wisest decision for my health,” he said in a statement released February 26.

“I also owe it to the citizens of the Ninth District to have someone at full strength during the new campaign,” he said.

During a hearing by the state elections board into allegations of absentee ballot fraud, Harris, 52, had revealed that he had suffered two strokes in January while fighting an infection.

Harris endorsed Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing in the Republican primary, which, with Harris out, is likely to draw a large field of candidates.

The district runs from the suburbs of Charlotte east along the South Carolina border toward Fayetteville.

Governor Roy Cooper has yet to set a date for primaries and the special election. In the meantime, the seat remains vacant.

In November, Harris, a Baptist pastor and longtime Christian conservative activist, appeared to have defeated McCready in unofficial returns, finally winning on his third try for elective office.

But the state board refused to certify the results after allegations surfaced that Dowless orchestrated an effort to illegally collect absentee ballots in Bladen County, a rural outpost at the eastern end of the district.

Dowless has denied wrongdoing.

Harris’s decision not to run came just five days after the board ordered a new election in the district, after hearing four days of testimony about Dowless’s activities in Bladen County.

The most dramatic moment of the hearing came when Harris’s son, John, a federal prosecutor in Raleigh, testified that he had warned his father against using Dowless as an operative in the campaign because he was a “shady character.”

Harris wept as he listened to his son’s testimony, which contradicted his previous assertions that the allegations of illegal activity by Dowless came as a surprise.

In December, North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature changed state law to require a full primary election in the event the 9th District race was rerun, which gave the GOP the option of ditching Harris and nominating another candidate to face McCready.

McCready, 34, a former Marine officer and businessman, is not expected to face any challengers on the Democratic side. He has raised more than $500,000 since November in preparation for a new election.

If McCready wins, the 9th District will be the only North Carolina seat to shift from Republican to Democrat and would be the 11th Southern seat to shift in the 2018 cycle.

Republicans hold a 101-to-50 advantage in House seats across the 14 Southern states.

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North Carolina elections board orders new vote in disputed 9th District U.S. House race

Republican Mark Harris reverses course and calls for new election instead of certifying his unofficial win

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

RALEIGH (CFP) — The North Carolina State Board of Elections has ordered a new election for the state’s 9th District U.S. House seat, after hearing four days of testimony about allegations of absentee ballot fraud by a operative working for Republican candidate Mark Harris.

The board’s unanimous February 21 decision came shortly after Harris, who had spent the morning answering questions, returned from a lunch break and called for a new election, saying poor health would not allow him to continue testifying.

Republican candidate Mark Harris weeps during his son’s testimony (From WRAL-TV)

“Through the testimony I’ve listened to over the past three days, I believe a new election should be called,” he said. “It’s become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the 9th District seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.”

However, Harris insisted that “neither I nor any of the leadership in my campaign were aware of or condone the improper activities that have been testified to.”

The board’s decision sets up a possible rematch between Harris and Democrat Dan McCready in the new election to fill the seat, giving Democrats another pickup opportunity.

However, it is not clear if Harris will be a candidate. He told the elections board that he had suffered two strokes while battling an infection in January and said he was not well enough to answer questions, calling into question if he could withstand a contentious campaign in the glare of the national spotlight.

“Though I thought I was ready to undergo the rigors of this hearing and am getting stronger, clearly I am not, and I struggled this morning with both recall and confusion,” he said.

In December, North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature changed state law to require a full primary election in the event the 9th District race was rerun, which gives the GOP the option of ditching Harris and nominating another candidate to face McCready.

McCready took to Twitter to welcom the board’s decision, saying “from the moment the first vote was stolen in North Carolina, from the moment the first voice was silenced by election fraud, the people have deserved justice. Today was a great step forward for democracy in North Carolina.”

McCready has raised more than $500,000 for a rematch in the contested race since December; Harris’s campaign had just $19,000 in cash and $86,000 in unpaid debt at the end of December, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Harris, 52, a longtime Christian conservative activist and former senior pastor at Charlotte’s First Baptist Church, led McCready by 905 votes in unofficial returns after November’s vote.

But the state elections board refused to certify the results amid allegations that a contractor hired by the Harris campaign, McCrae Dowless, had illegally collected absentee ballots in Bladen County, a rural outpost at the eastern end of the district.

Under state law, voters must mail or deliver completed absentee ballots themselves. The board heard testimony that Dowless and people working for him had collected the ballots and then submitted them. Questions were also raised about improprieties in applications for absentee ballots.

Until reversing course at the hearing, Harris had resisted calls by McCready and Democrats for a new election in the 9th District, which includes the suburbs of Charlotte and rural areas to the east toward Fayetteville.

His lawyers and Republican officials had argued that the results should be certified despite the fraud allegations because the number of absentee ballots in question was not sufficient to change the outcome.

The most dramatic testimony during the four-day hearing came from Harris’s son John, a federal prosecutor. He testified that he had warned his father against using Dowless as an operative in the campaign because he was a “shady character.”

Harris sat crying as he watched his son’s testimony, which contradicted his previous assertions that the allegations of illegal activity by Dowless came as a surprise.

No Republican has yet come forward to launch a challenge to Harris. Two possibilities, former Governor Pat McCrory and former U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, who was defeated by Harris in the Republican primary in 2018, have both taken themselves out of the running.

McCready, 34, a former Marine officer and businessman, is not expected to face any challengers on the Democratic side.

If McCready wins the rematch, the 9th District will be the only North Carolina seat to shift from Republican to Democrat and would be the 11th Southern seat to shift in the 2018 cycle. Republicans hold a 101-to-50 advantage in House seats across the 14 Southern states.

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North Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Walter Jones dies at 76

Death will trigger a special election in the state’s 3rd U.S. House district

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

GREENVILLE, North Carolina (CFP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, a libertarian maverick who frequently bucked his party’s leadership and became a vocal opponent of sending U.S. troops into foreign wars, has died at the age of 76.

Jones, who had been granted a leave of absence from the House in December due to ill health, died on his birthday Sunday at a hospice in Greenville, according to his office. He had entered the hospice in late January when he health took a downward turn after breaking a hip.

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina

“Congressman Jones will long be remembered for his honesty, faith and integrity. He was never afraid to take a principled stand.” said a statement from his office issued upon his death. “Some may not have agreed with him, but all recognized that he did what he thought was right.”

His funeral is scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Greenville.

Jones’s death will trigger a special election in North Carolina’s 3rd District, which takes in a wide swath of the eastern part of the state along the Atlantic Coast, including the Outer Banks.

After serving a decade in the North Carolina House as a Democrat, Jones was elected to Congress in 1994 as a Republican. His father, Walter Jones Sr., served as a Democratic member of Congress for 26 years before his death in 1992.

Together, father and son served a total of 50 years in the House, starting in 1967.

In 2003, the younger Jones, a strong supporter of the Iraq War, famously introduced a resolution to change the name of French fries to “freedom fries” in the House cafeteria after the French government voted against the U.S. invasion at the United Nations.

But as casualties mounted and no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, Jones became a vocal critic of the war, saying Congress had been misled by faulty intelligence.

He then introduced legislation to try to force the Bush administration to bring the troops home — a stance that went down less than well in a district that is home to both the Fort Bragg Army base and Camp Lejeune Marine base.

But Jones saw off a primary challenge in 2008 and continued to be a frequent thorn in the side of Republican leaders. In 2011, Jones was stripped of his seat on the House Financial Services Committee after voting against a budget proposal pushed by his party leadership.

More recently, Jones signed on to a letter calling on Congress to obtain and examine President Donald Trump’s income tax returns, and he called for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election after Nunes discussed the investigation with White House officials.

Due to his health issues, Jones had already announced that he would not seek re-election in 2020, opening up the 3rd District seat, which leans Republican. He did not face Democratic opposition in 2018.

Governor Roy Cooper has not yet set the date of the special election to fill the vacancy. Each party will hold a primary, followed by a general election between the two winners.

The 3rd District seat is one of two North Carolina seats that are now open. In the 9th District, state elections officials have refused to certify the results in the November race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready because of allegations of absentee ballot fraud.

The State Board of Elections will convene  February 18 to hear evidence in the case, which could lead to a new election.

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