‘The left’s embrace of socialism is putting even their strongest and best-funded candidates in dire jeopardy…’
(Liberty Headlines) Conservative Republican Dan Bishop won a special election Tuesday for an open House seat in North Carolina, averting a Democratic capture of a slightly GOP-leaning district.
Bishop, 55, a state senator, defeated centrist Democrat Dan McCready. Bishop was the beneficiary of an election-eve rally in the district headlined by Trump, who told the crowd a victory would be “the first steps to firing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and winning back the House in 2020.”
McCready, 36, a former Marine turned financier of solar energy projects, banked on the district’s suburban moderates outside liberal Charlotte to carry him over the top. He was already a familiar name in the district: He narrowly trailed in an election for the seat last November that was later invalidated after evidence surfaced of vote tampering.
“The results tonight are the clearest sign yet that the left’s embrace of socialism is putting even their strongest and best-funded candidates in dire jeopardy,” said Dan Conston, president of the Congressional Leadership Fund, the House GOP Leadership’s super PAC. “Though McCready had the financial advantage at every turn, CLF mobilized quickly and made the investments needed to expose his self-dealing ways and turn out key Republican voters.”
Tuesday’s election had been seen as too close to call. Trump won the district by 11 percentage points in 2016, and a loss would have been a worrisome preface to the party’s campaigns next year. Republicans have held the seat since 1963, although it has been changed many times due to redistricting.
Special elections generally attract such low turnout that their results aren’t predictive of future general elections. Even so, a McCready victory, or even a narrow defeat, would have signaled that the Democrats’ 2018 string of victories in suburban districts in red states including Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas could persist.
There is almost no pathway to Republicans regaining House control next year unless they avoid losing more suburban districts and win back some they lost last year.
The district stretches from deeply blue Charlotte, one of the nation’s financial nerve centers, through its flourishing eastern suburbs and into less prosperous rural counties along the South Carolina line. More than half its voters were expected to come from the suburbs.
Since Trump became president, voters in such communities have abandoned Trump over his conservative social policies and vitriolic rhetoric on immigration and race.
Along with a GOP victory in a second vacant House district in North Carolina, Republicans pared the Democratic majority in the House to 235-199, plus one independent. That means to win control of the chamber in 2020, Republicans will need to gain 19 seats, which a slew of GOP retirements and demographic changes suggest will be difficult.
Suburban defections would also jeopardize the reelection prospects of Trump. Limiting the erosion of those voters will be crucial for him to retain swing states like North Carolina, which he won by less than 4 percentage points in 2016.
Trump retains strong support among grassroots Republicans.
Bishop counted on the district’s Republican-leaning tendencies.
“Bishop, his policies follow my convictions — after hearing Bishop, knowing that he’s for the Second Amendment and he’s against illegal immigration,” said Susie Sisk, 73, another retiree from Mint Hill. The registered Democrat said she voted for Bishop.
A McCready win would also have let Democrats brag that they controlled a congressional district that covers a piece of Charlotte, where next summer’s Republican National Convention will be held to renominate Trump.
Underscoring the GOP’s all-out effort to avoid a demoralizing defeat, Vice President Mike Pence also campaigned in the district on Monday. And while McCready outspent Bishop by nearly $3 million, top outside GOP groups poured in $6.4 million, outpacing Democrats’ $2.9 million and nearly evening out the expenditures.
In another special election, Republican Greg Murphy, a doctor and state legislator, as expected defeated Democrat Allen Thomas to keep a House district along North Carolina’s Atlantic coast.
That seat has been vacant since February, when 13-term GOP Rep. Walter Jones died, and Trump won it handily in 2016.
Bishop bound himself tightly to Trump, backing his proposed border wall with Mexico and accusing Trump critics of being intent on “destroying him.” In a TV spot airing Election Day, he said his opponent is “backed by radicals” as the screen flashed the faces of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders and outspoken liberal Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
McCready used his creation of a company that’s financed solar energy projects to cast himself as a job creator and environmental champion, even though such projects are only viable thanks to heavy government tax breaks and subsidies. He also focused on containing health care costs and ran a spot featuring his trademark promise to prioritize “country over party.”
The district received a black eye this year when state officials voided its 2018 election, which McCready lost by 900 votes to then-GOP candidate Mark Harris. That decision followed allegations of ballot tampering by a Republican political consultant, and Harris opted to not run again.
Associated Press contributed to this article.