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Fri Mar 15, 2019, 10:03 AM

NC-09: The Final House Race of 2018 Remains in Toss Up

Cook Political

The last House race of 2018 is finally about to be settled — but it may be well over a year after voters first went to the polls in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district before they have a representative in Congress.

Investigations into election fraud in the initial race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready — where Harris appeared to prevail by just 905 votes — delayed the final certification, and GOP strategists are breathing a sigh of relief that Harris won’t run again in the do-over election. Still, the new election promises to be a national draw for both parties, attracting plenty of outside money while giving them a chance to test their 2020 messages.

The 9th takes in the fast-growing south Charlotte suburbs, including part of Mecklenburg County and all of Union County. While other suburban areas have been moving Democrats’ way, locals say these areas may not have transitioned as quickly as other parts of the country. The Mecklenburg sliver of the district is ripe for Democrats, but Union especially, a growing Charlotte bedroom county, remains solidly Republican. According to an analysis from Catawba College political science professor Michael Bitzer, almost three-quarters of GOP primary votes last May came from Union and Mecklenburg counties alone, and they make up 60 percent of the voters in the district. The district continues to stretch along the state’s southeastern border to Fayetteville, taking in more rural counties such as Robeson and Bladen counties, which were the subject of alleged illegal absentee ballot activity in 2018 via Harris contractor Leslie McCrae Dowless.

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This race will provide the first true test of how lasting that blue wave from last fall really is: Will Democrats’ overperformance in special elections continue? By how much? and will it be enough to lift McCready? All of that may depend on the type of Republican that wins the nomination here, how tainted they will be by the absentee ballot fraud and if a too conservative candidate can alienate independent voters and moderate Republicans — as Harris did. But McCready will surely face a tougher contest now that this is practically the only political game in town — and the Democrat has to be able to still separate himself from his party in a race Republicans are eager to nationalize. This race remains in the Toss Up column.

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