Hardline Preacher Beats GOP Rep., Boosting Dems In Another House District

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 22: Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., attends a House Financial Services Committee in Rayburn Building titled “The Annual Report of the Financial Stability Oversight Council,” featuring testimony by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, September 22, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Group

Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) has lost his primary to Baptist minister Mark Harris (R), making him the first congressional incumbent of 2018 to lose a primary and boosting Democrats’ chances of winning the seat.

Harris led Pittenger by 48.5 percent to 46.2 percent with all precincts reporting when the Associated Press called the race shortly after 10:30 p.m. EST.

“I have called Mark Harris and conceded the race and I wish him the best,” Pittenger said at his election night event.

That result gives Democrats a major boost as they look to win the Republican-leaning seat, which stretches out from Charlotte and President Trump won by 11 percentage points two years ago.

Democrats were already excited about their prospects in the district — and Republicans were nervous — because of a top-tier recruit, Marine Corps veteran and businessman Dan McCready (D).

But Harris, a hardline social conservative and former state senator who led the efforts to push through the state’s discriminatory and now-overturned “bathroom law” targeting the transgender community, gives them a much easier target.

Besides having a strong moderate against a hardline conservative in the suburban district, Democrats have another big advantage: McCready has well over $1 million in his campaign account, while Harris is basically broke after the primary.

Harris’s win came in rematch — Pittenger barely beat him two years ago.

But while Pittenger went down, independent-minded Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), a frequent thorn in the side of GOP leaders, held on to win a primary of his own. He’s said he’ll retire after his next term in office.

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