Politics & Government

One candidate has big edge in North Carolina’s 9th District GOP primary, poll shows

Rep. Robert Pittenger speaks at the Charlotte Chamber last July.
Rep. Robert Pittenger speaks at the Charlotte Chamber last July. jeason@charlotteobserver.com

Ninth District U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger holds a large lead over his two opponents, according to a new poll of likely Republican primary voters.

A Civitas Poll released Wednesday showed the Charlotte Republican with 52 percent support compared with 20 percent for his nearest rival, former Charlotte pastor Mark Harris. A third candidate, Clarence Goins of Cumberland County, had 7 percent.

The survey of 375 likely voters had a margin of error of 5.3 percentage points.

The poll is one of the first independent measures of the May 8 primary in the district, which stretches from southeast Charlotte to Fayetteville.

Pittenger strategist Paul Shumaker said the poll numbers “confirm what we were already certain of.”

“The campaign will continue to work hard to unite the party behind Congressman Pittenger in the remaining months to make sure he is prepared to hold the 9th District for the President and conservatives as we move into May and November,” Shumaker said in a statement.

Harris campaign manager Jason Williams noted that Pittenger has run TV ads accusing Harris of opposing President Donald Trump. Harris called the ads misleading.

Republican Mark Harris speaks to his supporters at a 2016 rally. Robert Lahser rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

“Robert Pittenger has spent tens of thousands of dollars lying about Mark Harris in attack ads,” Harris campaign manager Jason Williams said Wednesday in a statement.

“We are just starting an aggressive ad campaign responding to his misleading ads highlighting Congressman Pittenger’s liberal voting record … We are confident that the voters in the 9th district are smart enough to see through his lies and will support Mark Harris on Election Day.”

Early voting for the primary starts April 19.

The winner of the GOP primary faces the winner of the Democratic primary between Christian Cano and Dan McCready as well as Libertarian Jeff Scott. The district leans Republican but is a Democratic target in 2018.

In 2016, Trump won the district with 54 percent of the vote. Pittenger beat Cano won with 58 percent.

In a separate question, the poll found that 81 percent of likely Republican voters have a favorable impression of the National Rifle Association.

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill