State Sen. Dan Bishop dominated the 9th Congressional District special election on Tuesday, racking up just under 50% of the vote in a 10-person Republican primary. The Charlotte attorney will now face Democrat Dan McCready in a September 10 general election.
The results weren’t particularly surprising given how many constituencies Bishop was able to piece together in a six-week campaign season. He earned the endorsement from the Club for Growth, known for backing pro-business conservatives.
Bishop also has social conservative bona fides, particularly as a key author of House Bill 2. However, he didn’t lean heavily into LGBT issues during the Congressional campaign, instead focusing on combatting illegal immigration, supporting pro-life policies and defending Second Amendment rights.
Bishop raised the most money out of the field, plus jump-started his campaign with a $250,000 personal loan. That allowed him to be the first to television, releasing an ad depicting Democrat Party national leadership as bobbing balloon clowns. He also poured thousands of dollars into direct mail, sending nearly a half-dozen pieces to Republican voters across the district even in a condensed timeline.
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This special election comes after the State Board of Elections invalidated last November’s contest, in which Republican Mark Harris appeared to squeak out a 900-vote victory over McCready. However, just before the results were to be certified, the elections board announced they would investigate claims of absentee by mail election fraud in Bladen County.
After a drawn-out and emotional investigatory hearing, Harris decided to concede that a new election was needed. Citing his health, Harris declined to run in the new election.
Instead, he cast his support to Union County commissioner and shooting range owner Stony Rushing, who ended up finishing a distant second with about 20% of the vote. Rushing was the first to enter the race and memorably released a web ad of him wading through a swamp, live snake coiled around his neck. But Rushing needed to dominate his home county to have a shot at winning the primary, and that support simply never materialized.
Matthew Ridenhour, a former Mecklenburg County commissioner and Marine veteran, finished third, with about 17% of the vote.
The only other candidate with more than 5% of the vote was Leigh Brown, a Harrisburg realtor and relatively unknown political figure before this race. Controversially, she benefited from more than $1.3 million in spending from the National Association of Realtors PAC, which she helped control until days before she jumped into the race. The independent expenditure was one of the largest in the realtors’ group’s history.
However, all of that money only resulted in about 8% of the vote.
Without feeling the heat from primary opponents, Bishop’s campaign looked ahead to the matchup with McCready the entire time — casting himself as the “Right Dan” in the race.
His general election opponent, Dan McCready, is a Marine veteran and clean energy entrepreneur who succeeded in providing few substantive thoughts about the issues during the first election.
Instead, he rode the anti-Trump blue wave that helped Democrats take control of the U.S. House — and hundreds of thousands of dollars from D.C. organizations.
The dynamics are completely different in 2019. Democrats now have polarizing political figures of their own, including Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Bishop will have much more success in nationalizing the race than Harris had.
Bishop is a ferocious campaigner. Expect him to come after McCready hard.
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