Pastor Mark Harris has upset Rep. Robert PittengerRobert Miller PittengerBottom Line North Carolina reporter says there could be ‘new crop’ of GOP candidates in 9th Congressional District race North Carolina board calls for new election in contested House race MORE (R-N.C.) in his Tuesday primary, toppling the incumbent congressman after nearly defeating him in a primary two years ago.
Pittenger conceded the race late Tuesday night, telling his supporters he had called Harris.
The victory sets Harris up for a tough general election fight that could draw outsized attention.
Harris mounted one of the toughest primary challenges to any incumbent congressman against Pittenger in 2016, when he fell just short of beating him. But this time, Harris was able to clear the bar after blasting Pittenger for departing from conservative orthodoxy on issues like the national debt and attacking Pittenger as a stalwart supporter of GOP leadership.
Pittenger had sought to push back by highlighting a voting record he described as in sync with Trump’s agenda and wooing prominent Republicans into the state to lend a hand with fundraising.
It won’t be smooth sailing to Congress for Harris, as he faces a strong Democratic challenger: Dan McCready, a veteran and small-business owner. McCready has not only outraised the combined GOP effort in the district, but has a massive cash advantage over Harris. The Democrat has $1.2 million on hand while Harris has a paltry $71,000 as of the middle of last month. Democrats are excited about McCready’s profile and believe he could potentially flip the seat, particularly now that the incumbency advantage is gone. A lack of a GOP incumbency advantage, low approval ratings for Trump and concerns about GOP turnout in the year of a “Blue Moon Election” — a rare year without a gubernatorial race or Senate race — could make the general election more competitive. But the seat is still one President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE won by 11 points in 2016, and the district hardly has a history of voting for a Democrat. So Republicans are banking that Harris, the political newcomer, can mount yet another strong race in the fall.
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