A day after last month's primary, Democrat Dan McCready cast his fall contest with Republican Mark Harris as "a choice between dramatically different values and visions."
And while that's generally true, interviews with the Observer suggest the two aren't so far apart on some issues.
To be sure, Harris, who upset incumbent GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District, is far more conservative.
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Harris calls President Donald Trump "extraordinarily successful" and applauds his policies. If elected, he said he'd join the Freedom Caucus, the group of conservative House Republicans known for bucking their party leadership. He also would consider closing cabinet agencies such as the Departments of Education, Energy and Commerce. And the former Baptist pastor looks forward to a day when the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion.
McCready adheres to conventional Democratic positions on issues such as climate change, abortion rights, taxes, immigration and whether the president is able to pardon himself if convicted. But he makes a point of going his own way.
"It's no secret I have disagreements with the president," he said. "I also have disagreements with my own party."
▪ Asked about Trump's imposition of tariffs on allies as well as China, McCready said "trade wars are bad for the economy and bad for North Carolina jobs." But he said America needs "better trade deals."
"A good thing is we do have a president who takes extremely seriously the disadvantage that American companies and workers have been put through."
Harris said while he's "not a fan" of tariffs, he's "cautiously optimistic that this won't be a long-term solution but . . . a negotiating tool."
▪ Although some Democrats have called for more gun restrictions after school shootings in Florida and Texas, McCready isn't ready to join them. "Guns are very much a part of the culture in this district," he said.
He favors expanding background checks to gun shows and internet sales. "The problem," he said, "is not that politicians are doing the wrong thing to stop gun violence, it's that they're doing nothing at all."
Harris said "more gun laws are not the answer." He said he favors transferring $65 billion from the Department of Education — virtually its entire budget — to local school systems so they can enact other safety measures.
▪ Harris applauded the president for pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement.
"He was wise to do that," Harris said. "He recognized that it was not a good deal."
McCready also criticized the agreement negotiated by President Barack Obama's administration. He said the deal didn't stop Iran's ability to make ballistic nuclear weapons and by lifting economic sanctions, "strengthened their balance sheet to fund terrorists."
"Anyone who argues that we have a good deal with Iran is crazy," he said.
There are clearly differences between the candidates.
On immigration, for example, McCready called the separation of families at the border "cruel, un-American (and) expensive." He said children here under DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — should have a path to citizenship based on certain thresholds such as holding a job.
Harris described family separation as a warning and said the burden is on families "that try to cross the border illegally." He said he supports the president's conditions to allow the 800,000 DACA participants to stay in the country, including ending "chain migration," the diversity visa lottery and building a wall at the Mexican border.
They also disagree on the biggest differences between themselves and their opponent.
"I believe we’re all in this together, we're all Americans," McCready said. "I'm someone who brings us together. Mark Harris is someone who represents the extreme ideology that has turned Washington into a swamp in the first place."
Harris said the biggest difference lies in their party identities.
While he's from a party that believes in smaller government and religious freedom, he said, McCready is from the party of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.