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In our podcast, we’re gone to Carolina

Political Theater, Episode 91

Dan McCready, the Democratic candidate in North Carolina’s 9th District, campaigns in Pembroke, N.C., on Aug. 10. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It’s September 2019, but we’re only just now wrapping up the 2018 election. Voters in North Carolina’s 9th District will finish it all off on when they decide on Sept. 10 whether Democrat Dan McCready or Republican Dan Bishop will represent them in Congress. 

The lagging special election was necessary because the North Carolina State Board of Elections threw out last fall’s initial results because of election fraud tied to the Republican effort and its nominee, Mark Harris. 

After Election Day last year, Harris lead McCready by 905 votes. But with the mess that ensued afterward, with Republican operative Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. indicted on a host of charges tied to the fraud, Harris opted not to give it another whirl, and Bishop earned the GOP nod for the redo by winning a 10-way primary.

UNITED STATES - AUGUST 10: Dan Bishop, center, Republican candidate for North Carolina's 9th District, Michael Whatley, right, chairman of the N.C. Republican Party, and David Buzzard, canvas a neighborhood in Parkton, N.C., on Saturday, August 10, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Dan Bishop, center, the Republican candidate for North Carolina’s 9th District, canvasses a neighborhood in Parkton, N.C., on Aug. 10. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It has been a long slog to get here, with both parties eager to see what happens. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the contest a Toss-up.

That is likely making Republicans nervous, regardless of the result. Why? President Donald Trump won this district by 11 points in 2016, en route to winning the state overall by 4 points. The closeness of this race is borne out by a poll commissioned by Inside Elections that showed McCready with a lead

McCready has raised much more money than Bishop, but Republican groups like the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund have spent upward of $5 million to try to level the playing field.

Putting an exclamation point on the race will be a visit by Trump to rally Bishop supporters on Sept. 9. Regardless of whether Bishop loses or even wins narrowly, Democrats will tout it as a win, showing what kind of expense and effort is necessary to compete even in a comfortably Republican district. It could help spur Democratic recruiting and prod more wary GOP lawmakers into retirement. 

Simone Pathé has reported extensively from North Carolina; one of the big takeaways she has is that McCready is sticking to the 2018 script that paid dividends for Democrats: a focus on kitchen-table issues such as health care and education. Bishop and outside GOP groups have questioned McCready’s business career in the solar energy sector and argued he is a liberal. 

Each candidate has to not only motivate their bases in the diverse district but also to appeal to cross-over voters. For McCready, that means getting black and Native American voters to the polls; for Bishop, it’s rural whites. Both are trying to appeal to suburban voters who migrated to Democrats last year. 

It is one of those races that can provide a lot of liner notes for the 2018/2019/2020 political album being recorded now. Nathan and Simone go into more detail in this week’s Political Theater podcast. 

Show Notes:

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