CHARLOTTE, NC —Primary election night was one of upsets for a long held GOP congressional seat already considered vulnerable to a wave of Democratic votes. But for Rep. Robert Pittenger, the wave began inside his own party. Pittenger conceded to fellow Republican and challenger Mark Harris, who ended the night with 17,223 votes in unofficial vote tallies, compared to the incumbent’s 16,409.
Harris maintained a lead over Pittenger from the night’s first returns, despite Pittenger spending $1 million for the primary. Harris’ campaign spent half that, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The May 8 race to see who would square off for the congressional seat on the November ballot was one of the top primary races to watch in North Carolina. Harris will face Democrat Dan McCready, who claimed 37,823 votes. Political observers were quick to note that McCready’s support from Democratic voters well surpassed all three GOP candidates vying for the seat combined.
Harris’ victory garnered praise from Tea Party cofounder Jenny Beth Martin, who said, “Mark Harris’s primary victory in NC-09 is a big win for conservatives across the country. We look forward to seeing him in Congress, where he will be a staunch advocate for taxpayers and a leader who will drain the swamp!”
Mecklenburg’s interim district attorney, Spencer Merriweather, won a resounding victory with about 78 percent of the vote over challenger Toussaint Romain, making him the first African American district attorney elected in the county. Merriweather was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper last year to fill the seat after Republican Andrew Murray was tapped for U.S. Attorney in Charlotte by President Trump and ran a campaign focused on reform.
Polls across the state largely closed at 7:30 p.m., however there were exceptions. Voting hours in Hoke County, for example, were extended by 15 minutes to accommodate voters in line by 7:45 p.m. at one precinct to offset the facility opening late, the NC State Board of Election said Tuesday evening. In Robeson County, voting was extending by 45 minutes after a traffic accident delayed voting at a precinct location.
Early voter turnout significantly outpaced previous primaries in the Queen City region, according to one election spokesperson.
“Early voting was up 50 percent,” Kristin Mavromatis, spokesperson for the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections told Patch. “Today we are slow but steady which [is] typical for this primary,” she said.
“It is the largest turnout we have seen for a midterm at early voting. We are hopeful turn-out will remain high with voting today but that might mean a 15% turnout,” Mavromatis said.
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When it came to early voting, 4.25 percent of North Carolina’s nearly 7 million registered voters turned out to cast their ballot before election day, North Carolina State Board of Election officials announced Tuesday. Of those votes, nearly half — 47.5 percent — cast votes for Democrats. Republicans cast 28 percent of the state’s absentee votes, Unaffiliated voters cast 24 percent of votes and Libertarians cast less than 1 percent, NCSBE data said. Those unofficial figures are through Monday, May 7 and do not reflect mail-in ballots that continue to come in, the board said.
Incumbent Ousted By Challenger
Pittenger, who has shown allegiance to President Trump, went into the primary facing not only a competitive primary inside his own party, but also a looming threat that North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District could flip to Democrats during the midterm elections in November. A Citivas poll last month had indicated that Pittenger was leading Republican primary challengers Mark Harris and Clarence Goins with 52 percent support of GOP voters.
Despite the fact that Pittenger’s U.S. House seat has been held by a Republican for the past 55 years, this year it is one of the nation’s most competitive races on deck in November, according to the Charlotte Observer. To boost the incumbent, Vice President Mike Pence was in Charlotte last month headlining an event heralding the new tax cuts.
Democrat and Marine Corps veteran McCready now goes into his fight for the NC-09 seat compared to Conor Lamb, who narrowly snatched Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District seat from GOP incumbent Rick Saccone in a special election in March, Vox reported. McCready trounced his primary challenger Christian Cano, who came away with fewer than 8,000 votes after a campaign that faced criticism from his own party during primary leadup after he called McCready a “coward” and “p—–y.”
While Pittenger overperformed Trump in the 2016 election and therefore likely has some cushion, a Democratic wave in the polls in November would leave the seat competitive, political analyst Dr. Michael Bitzer told Patch recently.
“The key to midterm elections are typically the fact that midterms are referendums on the president and his party, and even if a president is ‘above water’ in his job approval, seats may still be lost in both the House and Senate. With Trump’s approval sitting in the high 30s to low 40s, this doesn’t bode well for Republicans in their campaigns this fall,” Bitzer said.
Election results will be posted on the Mecklenburg Board of Elections website beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Registration, Sample Ballots & Voting Hours
Voters can confirm their registration, local polling site and pull up a sample ballot on this NC State Board of Elections website.
On Tuesday, May 8, voting sites will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
Registered Republicans and Democrats will have opportunity to vote for their party’s candidates and voters registered as Unaffiliated may vote in the partisan primary by requesting a ballot of one of the parties. Write-ins are not permitted in this election.
Below is a list of candidates for the Mecklenburg County Primary May 8. Results will be updated throughout the evening and winners will be an X.
Photo courtesy of Rep. Robert Pittenger