Everything You Need To Know About The NC 09 Primary To Replace Mark Harris

Republican NC-9th District Congressional candidate Mark Harris answers questions at a news conference at the Matthews Town Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Matthews, N.C. Harris declared victory over Democrat Dan McCready early Wednesday morning and McCready later conceded. (David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS)
Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service

The Republican primary in North Carolina’s 9th District is on Tuesday and expected to lead to the most expensive special election of the year, when the GOP nominee ultimately battles against Democrat Dan McCready.

But for now, 10 Republicans still have to duke it out for the role vacated by Mark Harris, the former candidate who went down when his political operative, McCrae Dowless, was indicted for running an absentee ballot fraud ring in 2018. This primary is the first step in the redo election mandated by the Board of Elections after Dowless’ actions tainted the last contest.

The Players:

State Sen. Dan Bishop: Fundraising-wise, Bishop is leading the pack. He ran a campaign ad featuring inflatable clowns bearing the likenesses of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). He also helped author the state’s infamous “bathroom bill.”

Stevie Rivenbark: Riverbark is a millennial, pro-gun, pro-life mom hoping to be the conservative answer to Ocasio-Cortez. She says that her decision to go through with a potentially life-threatening pregnancy rather than abort the fetus was a catalyst for her political ambitions.

Leigh Brown: Brown, a realtor, has been sucking up significant contributions in the form of ad buys from the National Association of Realtors PAC. She is also suing the FEC for making her stop airing radio ads for her business while she runs for office. She has declared that, if elected, she would make sure “Medicare-for-All can die.”

Stony Rushing: Rushing, the county commissioner in Union County, is a staunch gun rights activist who dresses like J.D. Hogg from “The Dukes of Hazard” and has promised to be a loyal Trump ally in Congress. When rumors of the absentee ballot plot first started to leak, he spouted a variety of conspiracy theories about it.

Gary Dunn: Dunn is a perpetual candidate and has run for North Carolina governor and Charlotte mayor multiples times, both as a Democrat and a Republican.

Matthew Ridenhour: Ridenhour is a former county commissioner for Mecklenburg County and is leaning hard into his veteran status. His campaign slogan is “it takes a Marine to beat a Marine” (McCready has also served).

Chris Anglin: Anglin is an attorney from Raleigh. He earned the ire of many Republicans when he switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican shortly before an unsuccessful run for state Supreme Court in the last election. Some in the GOP tried to block him from running then, and still see him as a fake Republican.

Fern Shubert: Shubert has served multiple terms in the state House and one in state Senate, along with an unsuccessful bid for governor. She’s banking on her name recognition and was once termed “the bulldog” for her tenacity in going after opponents.

Albert Lee Wiley, Jr.: A nuclear engineer, Wiley has run for various offices multiple times and wants to cut government spending and work on nonproliferation deals.

Kathie Day: Day is a real estate agent, though she seems not to have actively campaigned much.

The Rules:

One candidate must get more than 30 percent of the vote to advance directly to the general election on September 10. If no one does, a runoff election will be held on that date and the general will be on November 5.

The Background:

After the race in 2018, Harris was up by a tiny margin of about 900 votes. Rumors started floating about the absentee ballot plot and the Board of Elections declined to certify the race.

During explosive hearings, Harris’ son gave damning testimony that his father knew about Dowless’ shady history and absentee ballot schemes — he had pulled similar tricks in a prior Republican primary — when he hired him. Mark Harris wept at the back of the hearing room.

Soon after, when Mark Harris took the stand, he stopped his testimony halfway through claiming that previous strokes had left him unfit to continue and called for a new election. He decided not to run again under the pall of the scandal.

Five people, including Dowless, have been arrested for participating in the scheme.

The debacle also contributed to the ouster of Dallas Woodhouse, the state GOP’s executive chairman, who lost his party’s confidence after a string of scandals.

H/T to two good roundups from local outlets: one from the Charlotte Observer and one from station WFAE.

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