Among the other election news from Tuesday were reports of the first incumbent to be ejected from Congress. The unlucky congressman was Robert Pittenger, a Republican from North Carolina’s 9th district.
Mark Harris, a conservative pastor, upset Pittenger in a race that focused largely on the two candidates’ allegiance to Donald Trump. The Weekly Standard notes that the two men hotly debated who was the first to support Trump in 2016. Harris also criticized Pittenger for his vote for this year’s omnibus spending bill.
Pittenger defeated Harris in the Republican primary by 134 votes two years and then went on to win the general election by 16 points. Trump carried the district by 12 points. On Tuesday, Harris won by two percent or about 800 votes according to unofficial results.
Mark Harris is a Baptist minister and a past president of the North Carolina Baptist Convention. He was heavily involved in the fight to protect traditional marriage in the state.
The 9th district may be competitive in the fall even though a Republican has held the seat since 1963. Dan McCready, the Democratic nominee, is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War, a small business owner and a Harvard graduate. McCready notes on his website that he “was baptized in water from the Euphrates river.”
The 9th district runs from Charlotte east toward Fayetteville and encompasses a wide variety of voters. In addition to Charlotte’s eastern suburbs, it also includes Ft. Bragg and several poor counties in between.
McCready, a moderate Democrat similar to Pennsylvania’s Conor Lamb, has several potential advantages in the race. His military background may play well in the Ft. Bragg area. His website calls for pro-business and fiscally responsible policies in addition to typical Democrat issues such as healthcare and the environment. McCready also promised not to support Nancy Pelosi if he is elected.
In contrast, Harris is vulnerable to attack on some key issues. North Carolina’s WSOC-TV points out that unswerving allegiance to Trump may be a liability in a swing state where the president’s popularity is not high. A recent poll of North Carolinians showed Trump with 43 percent approval and 50 disapproval.
Harris is also likely to excite his Democratic opposition due to his role in the controversial “bathroom bill.” In 2016, Mother Jones described how Harris was among the leaders of opposition to a Charlotte “antidiscrimination” ordinance that would have allowed men who identify as women to use the women’s restroom. Harris’ notoriety means that liberals from around the country can be counted on to support his opponent.
Cook Political Report previously rated North Carolina’s 9th district as “lean Republican” with Pittenger as a candidate, but the seat may become a likely pickup for Democrats now that Harris is the nominee. The combination of a more right-wing Republican and a moderate Democrat could spell trouble for the GOP in November.