Elections

Realtors appear to make big investment in the 9th District primary. But will it help?

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.

A national Realtors group is planning to spend more than $400,000 on TV ads in support of a candidate in North Carolina’s 9th District Republican primary.

The spending could be as high as $900,000, according to media trackers for another national group.

The money appears to be in support of real estate broker Leigh Brown of Cabarrus County. Though campaign reports aren’t due until Monday, the size of the Realtor’s TV buy would dwarf the spending of most GOP candidates.

The National Association of Realtors has bought the ads, which are scheduled to start airing next week and continue through the May 14 primary.

Records show that the group is spending $88,325 on ads at Charlotte’s WCNC. A spokesperson for WBTV said the buy there is $328,000. Those records don’t indicate who the ad’s beneficiary will be. But a document the Realtors’ political action committee filed on WBT radio shows ads will be in support of Brown, though it does not indicate the amount of the buy.

“As one of the most bipartisan political action committees in the country, RPAC is solely focused on ensuring the issues that matter most to the housing industry remain a priority for America’s lawmakers,” said Wesley Shaw, a spokesman for the Realtors’ group. “That will be our continued focus as we work to send individuals to Congress who will stand up for homeownership and private property rights.”

To put the buy in context, Republican Stony Rushing, a Union County commissioner, reports raising just over $36,000 in the first three months of the year. Rushing has been endorsed by Mark Harris, the 2018 GOP nominee.

“It is absolutely a lot of money,” said GOP consultant Larry Shaheen, who doesn’t have a client in the race. “It likely will make it even more difficult for some of the lesser-funded candidates to get their names out.”

Though prominent in real estate circles, Brown has not been elected to office. She lost a 2014 state House race, winning 38 percent of the vote. Rushing, state Sen. Dan Bishop, former Sen. Fern Shubert and former Mecklenburg Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour all have been elected more than once.

Brown, one of 10 Republicans running for the seat, emphasizes her real estate experience.

“As the CEO of a real estate company, I have helped many people throughout the 9th district buy and sell their homes,” she says on her website. “I have fought to improve housing affordability because as a Realtor I believe homeownership is part of the American dream.”

Money hasn’t always made a big difference in 9th District races.

Republican Robert Pittenger spent $2.1 million of his own money in the 2012 GOP primary, and enjoyed a 7-1 fundraising edge over former Sheriff Jim Pendergraph. He just squeezed by Pendergraph in a runoff and went on to serve three terms.

The special 9th District election was called by the State Board of Elections after hearing evidence of absentee ballot fraud in the 2018 election. The Republican winner faces Democrat Dan McCready, Libertarian Jeff Scott and Green Party candidate Allen Smith.

Early voting begins April 24.


Correction

An earlier version of this story gave the wrong date for the start of early voting. Early voting begins April 24.

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