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9th District GOP Candidates To Debate A Final Time Ahead Of Primary Election

Stony Rushing addresses the Mecklenburg Evening Women's Republican Club.
David Boraks
Stony Rushing addresses the Mecklenburg Evening Women's Republican Club, April 2019.

Election Day for the Republican primary and the seemingly endless 9th Congressional District election is May 14 and early voting in Mecklenburg County ends Friday. Tonight, candidates will have their final debate in Monroe.

WFAE Political Reporter Steve Harrison joined WFAE’s Alex Olgin to talk about the state of the race.

Alex Olgin: Good afternoon Steve.

Steve Harrison: Hey Alex.

Olgin: Steve we have a crowded field in this race. Do we have any idea who's leading and what might happen next?

Harrison: So it is very crowded. We have 10 candidates, but Republican strategists believe there are only five or six who are real contenders. Mark Harris, last year's GOP nominee isn't running of course and the strongest candidates who are doing the best in polling are from Mecklenburg and Union counties. That's the heart of the eight county district with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Olgin: Has there been any polling in this race and any idea who's ahead?

Harrison: Candidates have done their own polling which they haven't released. But there's been one public poll done by the Raleigh group Public Policy Polling for National Journal Hotline that found Mecklenburg State Senator Dan Bishop ahead with 31 percent. He's the last Republican member in Mecklenburg legislative delegation after five others lost in November.

Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing had 17 percent. Mark Harris has endorsed him and Rushing has been a staunch defender of Harris and has been very critical of the State Board of Elections investigation into the 9th District last year.

There is former Mecklenburg Commissioner Matthew Ryanhour with nine percent and realtor Lee Brown with five. She's from Cabarrus County and she's one of five candidates in the race who doesn't even live in the district. That means she can't vote for herself.

Twenty-one percent in the poll were undecided. So there are a lot of votes up for grabs.

[Related: In 9th District Forum, Dan Bishop Questions Leigh Brown's Support From Realtors PAC]

Olgin: I see. Is there a chance for a runoff?

If there is a runoff that would be in September and then the general election would be pushed back to November. If there's no runoff the Republican winner will face Democrat Dan McCready in September.

Harrison: She isn't polling that well but you are hearing a lot about her and there's a big reason for that - money. The National Realtors Association PAC has spent $1.3 million on behalf of her, and individual realtors have also given heavily to her campaign.

All that money has drawn the attention of the other candidates at a forum a couple weeks ago. Bishop said it was a problem for one candidate to have so much money from what he said was a special interest group.

Harrison: So that's a big unknown, right? In the Republican primary last year for this race between Harris and Robert Pittenger about 31,000 Republicans and unaffiliated voted. Of course, there were other races on the ballot. And Matthew Ridenhour’s campaign thinks that there may be half that many people voting this time.

Olgin: So we have the debate tonight. Are there any specific issues they're going to be debating?

Rushing is running as the outsider. He calls himself the anti-swamp candidate.

Brown says she can win because she has no political baggage. She also says that being a woman is going to be an advantage in the general election just because it's going to be different and could appeal to independents.

And so tonight let's see if the candidates are more aggressive with each other in this final opportunity.