North Carolina is poised to be a closely watched state in the world of politics during the 2020 election cycle. While the state will no doubt play a crucial role in determining who is elected president, the Senate race is also expected to be hotly contested as Democrats view it as a prime pickup opportunity in their path back to the majority.
With so much at stake in North Carolina, all eyes will be on the special election in North Carolina’s 9th District next Tuesday. The election, which was infamously scheduled after suspected vote tampering left the seat vacant following the 2018 election, is expected to carry implications for campaigns in 2020. As we move into the final days of the special election campaign, here is what you need to know.
AR/Intel Insiders: For a more in depth analysis of the NC-09 special election, check out our updated Race Brief.
Although the 9th District has typically favored Republicans, it appears to be trending toward Democrats. The seat was previously held by Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) who was first elected in 2013 but lost a primary to Republican Mark Harris in 2018. The primary loss prompted Democrats to double their efforts to flip the seat, and they recruited Marine veteran Dan McCready to take on Harris in the general. The 2018 election was extremely close, with the final (unofficial) tally coming to a .32-point advantage for Harris.
The 9th District is comprised of eight counties, but the two to watch will be Union and Mecklenburg, where most of the district’s population lives. Mecklenburg, home to Charlotte, has favored Democrats in the past – McCready carried the county by 9.55 points last year, and Hillary Clinton won it by nearly 30 points in 2016. Union County, a Charlotte suburb, is almost an exact opposite of Mecklenburg – Harris carried it by 23 points in 2018, and President Trump carried it by about 31.
Democrat Dan McCready immediately jumped back into the political fray after the North Carolina State Board of Elections ordered for a new election to take place in the 9th District earlier this year. In addition to serving in the Marines, McCready is a consultant and investor. He attended Duke University for his undergraduate degree and received an MBA from Harvard Business School in 2011. In 2013, he notably founded Double Time Capital, an investment firm aimed at building “clean American energy.” His campaign has been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, End Citizens United, the DCCC, and former Vice President Joe Biden.
On the Republican side is Dan Bishop, a state senator who received 47.7 percent of the vote in a 10-person primary election to move on to the general election against McCready. Bishop was elected to the North Carolina state House in 2014 and then to the state Senate in 2016. He previously served as a Mecklenburg County Commissioner from 2004 to 2008. In addition to serving in the state legislature, Bishop practices law at Erwin, Bishop, Capitano & Moss. Bishop has a strong list of endorsements that include the Club for Growth, the NRA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
General election polls released since the May primary have shown a tight race between Bishop and McCready, with both candidates hovering around 46%. Last week, Inside Elections released a poll that showed McCready with a 4-point advantage over Bishop, a lead which was within the margin of error. The survey also showed McCready with a 69-27% lead in Mecklenburg County, while Bishop had the advantage in Union County (51-40%) and the remainder of the district (48-34%).
Bishop has routinely been outraised by McCready throughout the campaign, but Republican groups are spending big on Bishop’s behalf. The National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund have spent upwards of $5 million to boost Bishop, and he will be getting help from President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the final days of the campaign.
McCready has also received outside support. Groups like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and EDF Action, an environmental PAC, have spent $2.7 million on behalf of McCready’s campaign, including a $600,000 ad campaign launched by the DCCC last Friday.
According to Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of The Center for Responsive Politics, between what the candidates spend and the outside money, the special election could cost upwards of $10 million overall.