North Carolina state senator wins GOP primary in 9th District

North Carolina state senator wins GOP primary in 9th District
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North Carolina state Sen. Dan Bishop beat out a crowded Republican primary field in the state's 9th Congressional District on Tuesday, setting him up to challenge Democrat Dan McCready for the coveted House seat in September.

With 65 percent of precincts reporting, The Associated Press called the race for Bishop, the author of North Carolina’s controversial "bathroom bill," who carried 47 percent of the vote — well above the 30 percent needed to avoid a runoff election.  

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Bishop entered the 9th District primary as the state Republican Party’s preferred candidate. But he also faced a field of nine other candidates that included Stony Rushing, a Union County commissioner who scored an early endorsement from Mark HarrisMark HarrisTrump tweets 'Total Endorsement' of NC GOP House candidate North Carolina state senator wins GOP primary in 9th District Dem candidate in contested North Carolina race refunds donation from Omar campaign MORE, the 2018 Republican nominee for the House seat.

Bishop’s win on Tuesday is a relief for state Republican officials, who had hoped to avoid a GOP runoff in September.

His victory sets the stage for what is sure to be a closely watched general election fight against McCready, a Marine Corps veteran who was also the Democratic nominee in last year’s election.

“Dan McCready went through two elections without telling anyone where he stood on anything. That ends tomorrow," Bishop said Tuesday. "Voters deserve a clear choice in this race, and we are going to give them one.”

That election will finally determine who will represent North Carolina’s 9th District after a protracted controversy that culminated in February with state election officials calling a new election amid mounting fraud accusations.

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

But soon afterward, state elections officials began looking into an alleged absentee ballot scheme orchestrated by a Leslie McCrae Dowless, a longtime political operative and a contractor for Harris’s campaign.

Elections officials ordered a new election in February after a days-long hearing in which workers paid by Dowless admitted to collecting and filling out absentee ballots during the 2018 election.

While officials did not say whether the alleged scheme affected enough ballots to alter the outcome of the election, they concluded that it was substantial enough to rattle public trust in the election results and undermine the integrity of the vote.

Harris, who announced after the February hearing that he would not run for the House seat again, quickly endorsed Rushing for the GOP nomination. McCready did not face a primary challenge, securing his spot on the ballot in September.

The North Carolina House seat is highly prized by both parties. Republicans have held the district since the 1960s, and President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push MORE carried it by more than 11 points in the 2016 presidential election.

But the razor-thin margin between McCready and Harris in last year’s race, as well as a wave of Democratic gains in the House, boosted Democratic hopes of flipping the seat.

North Carolina GOP 9th District Chairman John Steward congratulated Bishop on Tuesday night, calling on Republicans to coalesce behind the nominee as he heads into his general election bid against McCready.

"At the end of the day, we must move past our primary battles and focus on winning the general election. Sen Bishop's conservative values reflect the voters of the 9th district's values much better than his liberal Democrat opponent," he said.

Updated at 10:29 p.m.