The biggest Republican field in nearly a decade is set to run in North Carolina’s special 9th Congressional District, a race that will draw national attention both for why it’s happening and what it may foreshadow.
Ten Republicans are running for the now-vacant seat once held by GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger.
They’ll compete in a May 14 primary for the right to run against 2018 candidate Dan McCready, the only Democrat who filed by Friday’s deadline.
It’s the district’s biggest primary field since 2012, when Pittenger led a 10-candidate field and went on to win a runoff. But he was ahead in the primary with 33 percent of the vote. Now, 30 percent is all a candidate needs to avoid a runoff.
McCready, a Marine veteran and businessman, appeared to have narrowly lost last year before the results were thrown out due to allegations of absentee ballot fraud committed by a Bladen County operative working for Republican Mark Harris.
Like the election fraud controversy itself, the special election will attract national attention. Some analysts say it could be a preview of 2020 in what once again is expected to be a swing state, as well as the state that will host the Republican National Convention.
One candidate each from the Green Party and Libertarian Party are running. But with no other contested races, Republicans will hold the only primary contest on May 14. The general election is scheduled for Sept. 10. If no candidate gets more than 30 percent of the vote, a runoff election will be held Sept. 10, followed by a general election Nov. 5.
After the N.C. State Board of Elections voted unanimously to call for a new election last month, Harris announced he wouldn’t run. That opened up the contest to a wide range of Republicans seeking to represent the district that runs from southeast Charlotte to rural areas south and east of Fayetteville.
Just over three-quarters of 117,000 Republican voters in the 9th district live in Union and Mecklenburg counties, giving candidates from there an advantage in the primary. They face a compressed campaign sprint of less than two months to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their names out in a low-turnout, special primary election.
Here’s who’s running:
▪ Chris Anglin: A Raleigh-based attorney, Anglin made waves last year by switching his party affiliation and running unsuccessfully as a Republican for the state Supreme Court. Republicans in the legislature tried to block him, with N.C. GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse calling Anglin an “enemy,” but a court ultimately allowed him to run.
“Some may question whether I’m a Republican, as the leadership of the State Republican Party did last year,” Anglin said in announcing his candidacy. “Despite their insults, I have remained a Republican. I voted for George Bush and Pat McCrory. I know what a rational, conservative governing party looks like. This is not it.”
Anglin’s entry immediately drew a sharp rebuke from NC GOP chairman Robin Hayes.
“Chris Anglin is not a Republican,” he said in a statement. “He will not be allowed to access any GOP data, information, or infrastructure.”
Anglin shot back on Twitter that he expects to be allowed access to all data other Republican candidates receive or, “You will see me in court.”
▪ Dan Bishop: A conservative state senator from Mecklenburg County, Bishop is the county’s only Republican lawmaker who held his seat against a Democratic challenger in 2018. An attorney, Bishop is best-known as one of the authors of House Bill 2, the state’s controversial “bathroom bill.” He said that wouldn’t be an issue in this race.
“I support President Trump’s Wall, the Second Amendment, protecting the unborn, low taxes, sustainable government spending and the freedoms granted to every American by our Constitution’s First Amendment,” Bishop said in announcing his candidacy.
▪ Leigh Brown: A Realtor who lives in Harrisburg, Brown is a motivational speaker and author who bills herself as a “sassy Southern woman.” She ran unsuccessfully for the N.C. House in 2014.
“As a Realtor, there’s no better person to serve in elective office than somebody like me who sits across the kitchen table from homeowners every single day and helps find solutions to their problems,” she said in a Facebook video Friday.
▪ Kathie Day: A Cornelius resident, Day could not immediately be reached.
▪ Gary Dunn: Dunn, from Matthews, is a perennial candidate who ran for mayor of Charlotte in 2017. He was a candidate for governor as a Republican in 1992 and as a Democrat in 2012. He ran for mayor as a Democrat in 1993 and 2013 then as a Republican two years ago.
▪ Stevie Rivenbark Hull: The single mother of two from Fayetteville is one of the youngest candidates in the race; she filed on her 32nd birthday. She’s a local sales manager for a medical device company and is making her first run for office.
▪ Matthew Ridenhour: A former Mecklenburg County commissioner who lost his seat to a Democratic challenger in 2018, Ridenhour is a Marine veteran who works as a risk manager for a financial technology firm. With “It takes a Marine to beat a Marine” as his slogan, Ridenhour says he’s running against “the voices of socialists.”
“They want to put America’s small-businesses out of business with unfathomably high tax rates. They want to ban air travel, farming, and bankrupt our country,” he said of Democrats in a statement.
▪ Stony Rushing: A Union County commissioner, Rushing was endorsed by Harris after Harris decided not to run again. Rushing has attracted attention for wearing a Boss Hogg (the villain from the “Dukes of Hazzard”) costume for Halloween and in some of his Union County commissioner campaign ads, and has insisted that Harris was wronged and that he doesn’t think a new election was warranted.
“Let’s send a clear message to the swamp that our congressman will be selected BY THE PEOPLE and not by back room dealers and attorneys,” said Rushing, a gun range owner.
▪ Fern Shubert: An accountant from Marshville, Shubert has served in the N.C. House and Senate. She ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2004 and state auditor in 2012. She has since served as town manager in Indian Trail and Marshville and as town administrator in Marvin. She has said she has “a huge headstart on name recognition, and I’m a known quantity.”
▪ Albert Lee Wiley Jr.: A perennial candidate from Salter Path, in the southern Outer Banks, Wiley is an internationally known expert in treating victims of nuclear radiation who has run multiple times for the House and Senate.
The other candidates won’t face a primary challenge, so they won’t be on the ballot until at least September, or November if there’s a Republican runoff. Candidates in the general election will include McCready, the Democrat, as well as Libertarian Jeff Scott and Green Party member Allen Smith.