Politics & Government

Realtors’ group spending in the 9th District has hit a record $1.3 million

Ten Republicans are running in the new 9th District primary

The State Board of Elections ordered a new election after allegations of absentee ballot fraud. If none of the candidates gets 30 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held.
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The State Board of Elections ordered a new election after allegations of absentee ballot fraud. If none of the candidates gets 30 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held.

Updated 1:40 p.m. April 20

A national real estate group has now poured nearly $1.3 million into North Carolina’s 9th District congressional race, eclipsing the record that any group has ever spent in the district.

The National Association of Realtors’ Political Action Committee is helping Republican Leigh Brown, who until recently was a key fundraiser for the PAC. The group’s spending dwarfs that of any of the 10 Republicans in the May 14 primary, including Brown.

The PAC is buying TV, radio and digital ads on Brown’s behalf. The size of the spending angers some GOP rivals.

“I’m highly offended,” Republican Matthew Ridenhour said Friday. “This is an example of what’s wrong in politics today . . . It’s clear they’re trying to buy a seat for her and that goes against everything that our republic stands for.”

Federal law prohibits coordination between a group making so-called electioneering communications and a candidate or their campaign.

Neither Brown nor a spokesman for the Realtors’ PAC could be reached.

Until recently Brown, who lives outside the 9th District in Cabarrus County, was the PAC’s fundraising chair. A March 19 news release from the Realtors association said Brown stepped down from her fundraising position on March 13, two days before announcing her candidacy.

Brown’s consultant, Chris Sinclair, said the PAC ads are not coordinated with the campaign.

“At the end of the day, she’s an influential member, she’s been involved in the organization for a long time,” Sinclair said. “It’s not too often they have a member running for Congress. And when they do they get behind them.”

It’s rare for any group, particularly one not associated with a political party, to pass the million-dollar mark in a North Carolina congressional race. Some N.C. races don’t reach that much in total spending. No 9th District race has ever seen as much money from a single group, according to an analysis based on figures from the Center for Responsive Politics.

“If they were competing in a normal election cycle they would be competing with other interest groups and PAC money supporting other candidates,” said Michael Bitzer, a Catawba College political scientist. “This may be an opportunity . . . to have a much bigger impact.”

The Realtor group hasn’t always had success in North Carolina. In 2016 the PAC spent $325,000 on behalf of state Rep. Julia Howard. She finished fourth in the 13th District GOP primary, which was won by now-U.S. Rep. Ted Budd.

Meanwhile, another outside group, the conservative Club for Growth Action, also has jumped into the race, according to new filings with the Federal Election Commission.

It spent nearly $18,000 in mailers against Stony Rushing, a Union County commissioner. It’s the first attack by an outside group against a GOP candidate.

Rushing campaign manager, Conrad Pogorzelski, noted that the Club also spent money against then-candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican primary.

“Stony is honored to be in the company of President Trump,” Pogorzelski said in an email. “Stony will stand with President Trump to drain the swamp of the Establishment .. who are trying to buy this race, and side with those who oppose President Trump.”

A previous version of this story gave the wrong date for the Republican 9th District primary. It's May 14.

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