State Sen. Dan Bishop easily won Tuesday’s 9th District Republican primary, three months after state officials took the unprecedented step of throwing out a 2018 election marred by fraud allegations.
Bishop will face Democrat Dan McCready and two third-party candidates on Sept. 10 in what’s expected to be the nation’s most closely watched special election.
With all the votes in, Bishop defeated Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing 48% to 20%. Among 10 candidates, former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour was the only other one in double figures, with 17%.
“Dan McCready went through two elections without telling anyone where he stood on anything — that ends tomorrow,” a jubilant Bishop told supporters Tuesday night. “Voters in the 9th District deserve a clear choice in this race, and we’re going to give them one.”
As he had throughout the campaign, Bishop decried the “liberal crazy clowns” in Washington. He described their agenda as “socialism, open borders (and) infanticide.”
In a statement, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee signaled its own attacks against Bishop: As the architect of House Bill 2, the so-called “bathroom bill,” and the heir to what it called Republican election fraud.
State officials ordered the special election after allegations of absentee election fraud in the 2018 election between McCready and Republican Mark Harris. Five people have been arrested on charges relating to the alleged fraud.
In victory, Bishop carried all of the district’s eight counties, including Rushing’s home of Union.
Turnout was low. Fewer than 10% of voters cast ballots across the district that runs from Charlotte to Bladen County.
The GOP primary drew more than $1.4 million in spending by outside groups. About $1.3 million of that came from the National Realtors Association political action committee in support of Leigh Brown, a Cabarrus County Realtor and the PAC’s former fundraising chair.
The political arm of the anti-tax Club for Growth, meanwhile, spent more than $138,000 against Brown and Rushing. A spokesman said the group also “bundled” more than $84,000 in contributions for Bishop.
Bishop raised more than any other candidate, $572,000. That was twice as much as Brown and seven times as much as anybody else.
Almost all the candidates ran as strong supporters of President Donald Trump. Bishop, a two-term senator and former county commissioner, described himself as “battle tested” and the best candidate to oppose McCready, who didn’t face a primary opponent.
“In the age of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, socialism and perhaps infanticide, you need to send a warrior to Washington, D.C.,” he said at one forum. “Someone who can fight with a smile on his face.”
Rivals said his sponsorship of HB2 — the law that required people to use the bathrooms of the gender on their birth certificate in public buildings — would hurt in a general election. The law led to boycotts of the state by businesses, entertainers and college and pro sports events. At one debate, Brown said HB2 “frightens off unaffiliateds and conservative Democrats.”
Bishop consistently dismissed the suggestion. “I think people are ready to move on,” he told one audience. “There are new issues . . . There’s a fascination with the media about it.”
Rushing ran with the endorsement of Harris, who had declined to run again citing health concerns. His February announcement came five days after the State Board of Elections ended a hearing into the election fraud allegations by calling for a new election. Harris, who led McCready by 905 votes on Election Day, had reversed himself and called for a new vote.
State elections officials dealt with a glitch on Tuesday when absentee ballots in some counties went out with labels that appeared to suggest anybody could collect the finished ballots and drop them off.
It was “ballot harvesting” in Bladen County that led to what election officials called “a coordinated, unlawful ... absentee ballot scheme” in the district. The correct labels said only if a voter has a disability could someone deliver their ballot.
Election officials said despite the glitch, there’s no evidence of ballot fraud. State board spokesman Patrick Gannon said the board’s February hearing and subsequent arrests “should serve as a very strong deterrent to anyone who might consider committing fraud in this election.”
Dan Bishop: 47.67%
Stony Rushing: 19.57%
Matthew Ridenhour: 17.03%
Leigh Thomas Brown: 8.82%
Stevie Rivenbark Hull: 3%
Fern Shubert: 1.46%
Chris Anglin: 1.26%
Kathie C. Day: 0.64%
Gary Dunn: 0.35%
Albert Lee Wiley, Jr.: 0.20%
214 out of 215 precincts reporting