Early voting started Thursday and one of the most-watched races in the nation is being contested in Charlotte and the region.
Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger seeks a fourth term representing the 9th District, which runs from southeast Charlotte eastward to Fayetteville. He faces two Republican opponents in the primary, including Mark Harris, who lost to Pittenger by just 134 votes in 2016.
The winner is likely to face Democrat Dan McCready, a Charlotte entrepreneur. McCready faces Democrat Christian Cano, and is then expected to make this formerly safe-Republican district competitive in November. Several national analysts have labeled Pittenger’s 9th District as one of a handful in the country that could flip from Republican to Democrat.
Here’s how we see the primaries for this seat.
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All three Republicans – Pittenger, Harris and Cumberland County businessman Clarence Goins – hold similar and firmly conservative views on most national issues.
They’ve been attacking each other as insufficiently supportive of President Donald Trump, but the truth is any of the three would reliably stand with the president on almost every issue. They all promise to defend gun owners’ rights and take hard stands on immigration. All cast themselves as fiscal conservatives who want tax cuts and oppose Obamacare. Pittenger and Harris have opposed LGBT equality in the past.
The race is likely to come down to Pittenger and Harris. Goins is a former banker from Eastover, a suburb east of Fayetteville. More than half the district’s population is in Mecklenburg and Union counties, and he has not run a highly visible campaign in those places. This week, he said he would support Rand Paul for House Speaker, though as a senator, of course, Paul would not be eligible for the role.
Republicans should be uneasy with Pittenger. He has repeatedly embarrassed his district, such as when he told the BBC amid the Keith Scott protests that protesters “hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.” He argued that firing people because they are gay is one of “the freedoms we enjoy” as Americans. He told people to just move to another state if they didn’t like their health care insurance.
Though we don’t agree with Harris on most issues, we find the long-time senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Charlotte to be a straight-shooter. He is the strongest candidate to represent Republicans in this race.
This is not a close call. McCready, a Marine veteran and solar energy entrepreneur, holds centrist views that are much more in step with the district than Cano’s liberal stances. McCready’s experience in business and his leadership in the military are impressive, and he is one of the best-funded challengers in the country. He has won the support of many of the district’s leading Democrats, including some of Charlotte’s most successful business people.
Cano, who has raised very little money, has run a low-key campaign other than when he attacked McCready at a campaign event this month. It added to Cano’s history of attacking fellow Democrats, often with repulsive language.
We strongly recommend McCready.