Elections

GOP groups jump hard into 9th District race with $4 million worth of ad buys

Dan McCready and Dan Bishop’s campaign videos

9th district campaign videos are the battle of the Dans. Democratic candidate, Dan McCready and Republican candidate, Dan Bishop are both front-runners in the 9th district congressional race.
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9th district campaign videos are the battle of the Dans. Democratic candidate, Dan McCready and Republican candidate, Dan Bishop are both front-runners in the 9th district congressional race.

Two national Republican groups are pumping nearly $4 million into Dan Bishop’s 9th District congressional campaign, dramatically ramping up GOP spending and offsetting Democrat Dan McCready’s early fundraising edge.

The National Republican Congressional Committee launched new TV and radio ads Wednesday. Politico reported the group has reserved $2.6 million in air time through the Sept. 10 special election.

And the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super-PAC tied to Republican House leadership, spent $1.2 million on ad reservations on Bishop’s behalf. Spokesman Calvin Moore called it the “initial part of our investment.”

They’re the latest outside groups to get involved in the North Carolina race. Three others already have spent $845,000 on ads with less than six weeks to go before the election. And one of the three, the anti-tax Club for Growth, announced Wednesday it will spend another $412,000 in August.

“The pattern in most special elections is spending has ramped up dramatically in the final month,” said analyst Dave Wasserman of the Cooke Political Report. “This is one Republicans don’t want to lose.”

Bishop and McCready are running for a seat vacant since state election officials threw out the results of the 2018 election after evidence of election fraud. Seven people have been indicted in the scandal.

In addition to the NRCC and Leadership Fund, the Club for Growth already has spent $147,000 on Bishop’s behalf, according to Federal Election Commission records. And the House Freedom Fund, an arm of the conservative Freedom Caucus, has spent $112,000.

Meanwhile, EDF Action, an arm of the Environmental Defense Fund, has spent $586,000 in support of McCready.

Even with the two latest buys, outside spending so far in the 9th District is a fraction of what it’s been in some elections. A special 2017 election in Georgia saw outside groups spend about $27 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In 2018, McCready had an advantage over Harris not only in his campaign fundraising but in outside spending. He had a 3-1 fundraising edge over Republican Mark Harris while outside groups like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Patriot Majority, a non-profit not required to disclose donors, aired TV ads on his behalf.

Reports filed this month showed McCready had a 5-1 advantage over Bishop in cash on hand with $1.8 million to Bishop’s $344,000.

One N.C. Democratic strategist said with the House now under Democratic control, groups on his side might not feel an urgency about the race.

“It’s no longer that crucial,” said Thomas Mills. “Democrats have a majority in the House.”

Instead of TV, one Democratic group is spending on investments “designed to fly under the radar,” according to a group spokesman who didn’t want to be identified.

McCready tweeted about the GOP spending with a link to ActBlue, a contribution clearinghouse, shortly after the Observer story first went online Wednesday.

“Republican Super PACs just announced more than $4 mm (sic) against me,” he tweeted. “I am tied in the polls and charging this hill but I CANNOT do it alone. I need your firepower and I need it now.”

Last week McCready’s campaign released an internal poll that showed the race a dead heat.

The NRCC investment is more than double the spending of any outside group in the 2018 9th District election, which saw nearly $8 million in outside spending.

Its ad describes McCready as an “Elizabeth Warren Democrat” and liberal insider. McCready spokesman Matt Fried called it “more lies from Big Pharma to protect their investment in career politician Dan Bishop.”

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Jim Morrill, who grew up near Chicago, covers state and local politics. He’s worked at the Observer since 1981 and taught courses on North Carolina politics at UNC Charlotte and Davidson College.
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