Republican Dan Bishop defeated Democrat Dan McCready in Tuesday’s special election for a North Carolina U.S. House seat, holding onto the seat for the GOP after 2018’s vote was thrown out for fraud and giving President Trump a victory, although a worryingly narrow one.
The White House offered full-throated support for Bishop, with Trump and Vice President Pence both traveling to the state Monday night in a final push to win the Ninth District seat. Trump won the district by 12 points in 2016, but there were concerns that the president’s flagging popularity in the suburbs could hurt Bishop. Polling had shown a tight race and millions poured into the state, making it one of the most expensive House races in history.
“Tomorrow is your chance to send a clear message to the America-hating left,” said Trump at the rally Monday night in Fayetteville, predicting rampant socialism, open borders and crime under Democrats. Trump’s previous visit to the state in July was marked by chants of “Send her back!” when he attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., a Somali immigrant.
Bishop is a state senator who gained notoriety for sponsoring the state’s “bathroom bill,” which removed anti-discrimination protections for transgendered people. He prevailed over McCready in a district that includes parts of the Charlotte suburbs and more rural areas along the South Carolina border. McCready, who started a solar energy investment company, had run a centrist campaign and came out against impeaching Trump.
The special election was necessary after the results of the November 2018 race between McCready and Republican Mark Harris, who defeated sitting Rep. Robert Pittenger in the GOP primary, were invalidated. Harris was initially declared the winner by 905 votes, but the race was never certified, as evidence began to surface of ballot fraud by employees of the Harris campaign. Republicans initially objected that Democrats were trying to steal the election, but during a February hearing by the board even Harris said there should be another election.
“Through the testimony I’ve listened to over the last three days, I believe a new election should be called,” Harris said in a statement. “It has become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the Ninth District seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.”
During that hearing, operatives explained how they were paid to collect absentee ballots, sign as a witness when they hadn’t seen ballots filled out and forge signatures. Harris, a former senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charlotte with controversial social views, opted not to run in the special election, citing health concerns. Harris consultant Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. and seven alleged co-conspirators have been indicted on multiple felony charges.