Republicans in North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District need to come together, coalesce behind a candidate and begin raising money if they are going to take what should be a safe Republican seat away from an eager Dan McCready. Instead, they’re threatening to sue one another.
The Ninth District was the stomping grounds of a concerted ballot harvesting program spearheaded by one McCrae Dowless, an infamous political operative in the area, Bladen County specifically. While criminal investigations are ramping up and continue to take place, the results of the election in 2018 were questioned enough to hold up certification and ultimately came to an end when the apparent winner, Republican Mark Harris, dramatically called for a new election while he was being questioned at the State Board of Elections earlier this year.
During all of the uncertainty surrounding the investigations, Dan McCready has been able to fundraise and received national attention both over the fact that he was the Democratic candidate in the only undecided congressional election and because of the apparent widespread election fraud that transpired.
Since the election is starting anew, we have to hold primaries again. For Democrats, Dan McCready will cruise to the nomination and will continue raising money. On the other side, Republicans face an incredibly wide field of potential nominees. Ten separate Republicans are vying for the right to face McCready in the general election. If no Republican reaches 30% in the first vote, which is likely, the runoff primary will be September 10, pushing the general to November 5.
While Republican leaders called for unity at conventions earlier this year, the campaigns have veered into nastiness quite early. One of the top-tier candidates in the Republican primary is NC Senator Dan Bishop (of HB2 fame!), and he exchanged words with the former Rep. Robert Pittenger, who held NC-09 before Harris bested him in the last primary.
Former 9th District Congressman Robert Pittenger sent an email to supporters Tuesday where he endorsed Matthew Ridenhour in the upcoming special election — and also criticized State Sen. Dan Bishop, saying the Republican was “clearly aware” of Bladen County political operative McCrae Dowless’ “fraudulent activities.”
The email said Bishop is “not a good choice” for the seat.
Pittenger, a Republican, wrote that Bishop was a “primary advisor to the Mark Harris campaign and integrally involved as a speaker and with campaign strategy and execution. Bishop, an attorney and litigator, clearly had knowledge of McCrae Dowless’ fraudulent activities,” Pittenger wrote.
Senator Bishop, having none of it, almost immediately issued a letter calling for Pittenger to retract his statements, lest lawyers become necessary. From the Observer:
“I understand your bitterness over losing your seat in Congress, expressed in various ways over the past months,” Bishop wrote Pittenger. “You are entitled to endorse a candidate for the seat you lost and to hold and express opinions, even if born of that bitterness. You cannot publish lies about me.”
Pittenger recanted soon after.
Republicans are barely able to make it through a week in this primary without going for each others’ throats, while Dan McCready continues raising money and traveling around the district. This race is the Republicans’ to lose, and by all indications so far, they are trying their damndest.
Kirk Kovach is a native North Carolinian interested in writing about politics, communication and culture.