Realtors from across the country have continued to bet on Leigh Brown in North Carolina’s 9th District Republican primary, adding to their record $1.3 million investment and cutting into the financial advantage of rival Dan Bishop.
But one poll suggests Realtors haven’t gotten a lot for their money.
Individual Realtors gave Brown more than $200,000 in April, according to new reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. That’s on top of $1.3 million the National Realtors Association political action committee has spent on behalf of the Cabarrus County broker.
Brown has raised a total of $254,000, to Bishop’s $537,000, according to reports. Bishop, who loaned his campaign $250,000, had $184,000 on hand; Brown had $155,000. Both are the only candidates who’ve been able to advertise extensively on television.
The two are among 10 Republicans running in the May 14 special election. If one candidate wins at least 30 percent of the vote, a general election against Democrat Dan McCready and candidates from two smaller parties will take place Sept. 10. If there’s no outright winner, there would be a runoff on Sept. 10 and a general election on Nov. 5.
McCready, meanwhile, has raised $2.7 million and had nearly $1.6 million on hand, according to FEC reports.
A poll published Friday in the National Journal’s Hotline showed Bishop leading the field with 31 percent, followed by Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing at 17 percent and former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour at 9 percent. Brown was fourth with 6 percent. No one else had more than 5 percent.
The late April survey by Public Policy Polling showed 21 percent of likely voters undecided.
In terms of fundraising, Bishop and Brown are far ahead of other candidates:
▪ Ridenhour raised $81,600. He had $50,700 on hand on April 24.
▪ Rushing raised $67,000, with $15,000 on hand.
▪ And Stevie Rivenbark, a political newcomer from Fayetteville, raised $55,300. She had $22,500 on hand.
The Realtors’ money already has become an issue in the race, as has Brown’s residency. She’s one of five candidates who live outside the 9th District.
“If your entire campaign is built on one (Washington) DC super PAC, that is a grave concern,” Bishop told her at a forum. A recent mailer criticized her backing from a group that’s also supported Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Brown has said, “Realtors aren’t a special interest group. It’s a public interest group.”
Until recently, Brown 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, has said the PAC ads are not coordinated with the campaign.
Ridenhour ran afoul of one Realtor group when he posted a Facebook meme. It showed Brown’s face on a red, white and blue sign with the words “special interest sellout” planted in a pile of dollar bills outside the U.S. Capitol. An attorney for RE/MAX asked him to stop using a sign resembling its own on the meme or “instigate a legal confrontation.”
Ridenhour changed the red to orange but otherwise left the meme as is. “We are fine with changing the meme, honestly,” he wrote on Facebook. “It gives us the opportunity to repost this several-week-old meme.”
The Realtors aren’t the only outside group active in the race. The anti-tax Club for Growth Action has spent $65,000 on mailers against Rushing. Rushing’s general consultant Conrad Pogorzelski criticized the group, which also spent money against then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016.
Pogorzelski also dismissed the poll published in Hotline.
“Let’s remember that every poll in 2016 had Trump losing,” he said. “In the 2018 Republican primary in this district, polls showed Mark Harris down by more than 30 points just weeks out from the election. He went on to beat (Robert) Pittenger in the primary.”
Brown and Ridenhour also dismissed the poll.
“The latest PPP poll doesn’t reflect what we’re hearing and seeing on the ground from voters,” Brown said in a statement. “In fact, our work in the district shows growing momentum and that our message . . . is resonating with voters.”
Said Ridenhour: “(W)e have knocked on over 6,000 doors of likely voters and made over 6,000 volunteer driven phone calls. Voters are just starting to tune in and we feel very well positioned heading into Election Day.”
Staff writer Gavin Off contributed.