North Carolina House race redo draws nearly a dozen GOP candidates

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A crowded field of Republicans is lining up to challenge Democrat Dan McCready in the new election for North Carolina’s 9th District.

Ten Republican hopefuls had signed up to run in the May 14 primary after a crucial candidate filing deadline passed on Friday.

{mosads}They include state Sen. Dan Bishop, former state Sen. Fern Shubert, Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing and former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour.

Six other Republicans — Kathie Day, Stevie Rivenbark Hull, Leigh Thomas Brown, Gary Dunn, Albert Lee Wiley Jr. and former North Carolina Supreme Court candidate Chris Anglin — also filed paperwork to run.

North Carolina State Board of Elections unanimously voted last month to order a new round of voting in the 9th District after allegations of fraud marred the outcome of the November race, prompting an investigation by state officials.

Mark Harris, the 2018 Republican nominee, initially led McCready by 905 votes after the November election.

But Harris announced last month that he would not run in the new election, citing medical issues and plans to undergo surgery. Harris has endorsed Rushing in the GOP primary.

Bishop has already emerged as the favorite of the North Carolina Republican establishment, which sees the state senator as the GOP’s best bet to hold on to the 9th District.

His campaign is being run by veteran GOP operatives Jim Blaine and Ray Martin.

“We want Dan Bishop and Dan Bishop can win. Dan Bishop is the perfect candidate for us,” one North Carolina GOP source said, noting Bishop’s heavy-hitting campaign team and his ability to self-fund much of his House bid.

Still, the long list of candidates has prompted warnings from some Republicans, who fear that a crowded primary field could divide the electorate in May and prompt a bruising primary, and possibly, a runoff election.

A runoff election could mean that Republican candidates would have to spend more time competing against one another. McCready is the only Democrat to declare his candidacy and will not face a primary opponent. 

“I hope that the Republicans will recognize that the more they beat each other up in this primary the more difficult it’ll be for the party to heal those wounds,” said Dan Barry, the outgoing chairman of the Union County Republican Party.

{mossecondads}“We need to remain focused on the Democrats and leverage against the socialist wave that’s occurring in the Democratic Party,” he said.

Some would-be Republican contenders, including former state Sen. Tommy Tucker and former Gov. Pat McCrory, opted not to jump into the race.

Another one-time candidate, David Blackwelder, withdrew from the contest, saying that by doing so he hoped to “prevent a run-off.”

The investigation into the November race culminated last month with an evidentiary hearing by the state election board.

Elections officials and witnesses described a scheme run by Leslie McCrae Dowless, a contractor hired by Harris’s campaign, who allegedly paid workers to collect absentee ballots in the eastern part of the district.

Harris has repeatedly denied personal wrongdoing. But in a stunning reversal, he called for a new election after acknowledging that he had given incorrect testimony during the hearing.

The fraud allegations have galvanized Democrats, who have cast the new election as a reminder of the scandal surrounding Harris’s campaign.

Meanwhile, Republicans are eager to move past the 2018 race and are expected to undertake a forceful – and expensive — bid for a House seat that the GOP has held for more than 55 years.

The general election is currently slated for Sept. 10. If no candidate secures at least 30 percent of the May primary, a runoff will be held on Sept. 10, while the general election will be pushed back to Nov. 5, the same day as municipal elections in Charlotte.

That potential overlap could have ramifications for the 9th District race.

Charlotte is a Democratic stronghold in an otherwise Republican-leaning district, and the city’s municipal elections could help drive turnout about Democratic voters, said Scott Falmlen, a Democratic strategist and former state party executive director.

“Charlotte really is a blue city now,” he said.

Barry echoed that sentiment, saying that Charlotte’s municipal elections make avoiding a runoff election even more necessary for Republicans.

“We need to avoid a runoff because the general election will be held during the Charlotte municipal elections if there’s a runoff,” he said. “And the Charlotte municipal elections will bring in a huge amount of Democratic voters.”

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