CHARLOTTE – With the specter of an election re-do in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, many have been wondering who might run in that election. A law passed by the General Assembly stipulates that, in the event of a special election, a new primary election must also be held. Mark Harris is not counting himself out of that process, despite the stain his candidacy has received from the whole controversy.
The Republican that formerly held the 9th District seat, and narrowly lost the primary to Harris, Robert Pittenger has usually been the first name on lists of Republican contenders for a potential special election. However, you can now strike Pittenger’s name off that list; he says he will not run, according the Charlotte Observer.
“Pittenger, who leaves office on Thursday, said he plans to continue in private life what he’s done in Congress: organize gatherings of international lawmakers on subjects related to security and terrorism.
“I feel like what I’m going to be doing is as important as what I’ve been doing,” Pittenger, 70, told The Charlotte Observer. “I’m not going to run. I want to make that clear.””
When politicians say they are not going to run for “X” office, it should usually be taken with a grain of salt. After all, many candidates announce their candidacy only after denying their intentions to run for months. This is a special case, however, and Pittenger’s statement is likely a sincere one.
So one hypothetical front runner is off the list, but so is a hypothetical dark horse candidate: former Gov. Pat McCrory.
According to Long Leaf Politics:
“Former Gov. Pat McCrory announced Wednesday that he will weigh another run for governor in 2020 and a campaign for U.S. Senate in 2022 — but is not interested in running for the U.S. House.
In the meantime, he’ll spend the next few years focusing on building his media influence, teach at a university and pitch a book proposal. […]
McCrory did definitively say he would not run for Congress in the 9th Congressional District, which could head to a special election amid an investigation into absentee by mail election fraud.”
With the two biggest names (that are not Mark Harris) crossed off the list, the field to contest for the Republican nomination in a possible special election opens right up.
McCrory, though, did introduce other possibilities for running that should raise some eyebrows. During his announcement on his WBT Talk Radio program he opened the door (again) to another run for governor in 2020, as well as a possible run for U.S. Senate in 2022.
Current Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who is all set to contest Roy Cooper in 2020 for the governor’s mansion, probably does not want to hear rumblings about McCrory 2020. Forest has been laying the groundwork to run for governor for a while, has strong grassroots support, and conservative bona fides to boot. A McCrory primary candidacy would throw a big wrench in that system. Even some close acquaintances of McCrory reportedly have urged him to not run again in 2020, intimating that it’s just too soon to reinsert himself.
The election for U.S. Senate, on the other hand, is altogether different. Note that in his announcement McCrory mentioned 2022, and not 2020. The term ending in 2020 is that of Sen. Thom Tillis (RINO-NC). Tillis is expected to run for re-election, but has been coy about his intentions, with some surmising that he, too, could run for governor in 2020. McCrory’s 2022 mention may imply that Tillis is definitely running for reelection in 2020.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) has been public about his intentions to not seek reelection to the U.S. Senate in 2022, though we’ll reiterate that grains of salt are usually necessary for such assurances from career politicians. Assuming Burr does hang it up, though, McCrory could have a much clearer path back to political prominence by running to replace the retiring incumbent in the Senate.
You can read more about McCrory’s future plans at Long Leaf Politics.