In his first TV ad of the year, Rep. Robert Pittenger cast himself as one of President Donald Trump’s “strongest supporters” and accuses his Republican primary rival of trying to “stop Trump” in 2016.
Pittenger’s ad says Mark Harris “worked to stop Trump from being president. Now Harris opposes Trump’s military plan.”
Harris calls the ad misleading.
“I would almost have to borrow the phrase from Ronald Reagan to Jimmy Carter – there he goes again,” Harris said Monday.
The two Charlotte Republicans are the main GOP candidates in the 9th District, which runs from southeast Charlotte to Fayetteville. In 2016, Pittenger beat Harris by 134 votes in the primary.
While Pittenger has embraced the president throughout the past year, he underscores that support in the ad by touting his support for the GOP tax cuts and other policies.
But the ad also targets Harris, who in 2016 first backed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and then Sen. Ted Cruz in the presidential primary.
One “headline” used in the ad say “Mark Harris worked to stop a Trump presidency.” In a news release accompanying the ad, Pittenger strategist Paul Shumaker said Harris “led the ‘Stop Trump’ campaign” before the GOP convention.
“There is no record whatsoever that I was part of a Stop Trump movement,” Harris said. “To say that I was part of a Stop Trump movement is ludicrous.”
Interviewed before the convention by WBT radio, Harris talked about his support for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. At the time, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Marco Rubio were also in the race.
“Coalescing behind Ted Cruz is a way to stop Donald Trump and go into the convention, get our nominee and come out and beat Hillary Clinton in the fall.”
Asked in the same interview whether he could support Trump were he the nominee, he said, “To be honest it’s a very concerning decisions that’ll have to be made… I can’t tell you I feel great about that by any stretch of the imagination.”
Harris went to the convention as a Cruz delegate. But later he was on board with Trump. That fall he traveled to six swing states as part of an effort to rally conservative Christians to Trump.
Pittenger’s ad also hits Harris over his opposition to a recent spending bill that stopped a brief government shutdown while raising federal spending on the military and other programs.
Pittenger voted for the bill, which experts said could increase the federal deficit by $320 billion over 10 years while adding $2 trillion to the national debt. The measure was backed by Trump but opposed by many conservative Republicans.
Harris called the Bipartisan Budget Act “a massive spending bill further mortgaging the future of our kids and grand-kids.”
The winner of the GOP primary will likely face Democrat Dan McCready, who has outraised both Republicans and has nearly $1 million on hand.