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Karen Pence, Wife Of Vice President, Campaigns For GOP's Mark Harris

Steve Harrison / WFAE

In an attempt to close a large gender gap before the Nov. 6 election, Karen Pence, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence, campaigned in Charlotte Monday for Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris.

Harris is running in the 9th District against Democrat Dan McCready, and two recent polls have shown the race is close. Nationally, polls have found there is a large gender gap — with a Quinnipiac University poll from July finding that women prefer Democratic candidates this fall by an 18 percent-point gap.

Pence came to Charlotte as the guest of the Women for Mark Harris Bust Tour, which had its first stop at UNC Charlotte's main campus Monday morning. Several speakers said McCready, who is running as a centrist, is part of the so-called "Pelosi-Clinton crowd.”

“If the Dems win the majority, the Trump agenda stalls," said Nancy Schulze, founder of Women Impacting America — a political action committee formed last month. She organized the bus tour.

"All current investigations crease, and we’ll never get to the bottom of the truth," she said. "Impeachment will begin, not just against our president, but — mark my words — impeachment against Judge Kavanaugh.”

Schulze said she thinks the controversy over Kavanaugh's nomination has energized Republican voters, including women. She and other speakers pushed back against the idea that the GOP’s platform is against women’s interests, even though a large majority support Democratic candidates, according to polls.

Harris, a former pastor at Charlotte’s First Baptist Church, gave a controversial sermon five years ago in which he questioned whether a career outside the home was the “healthiest pursuit” for women.

Harris’s wife, Beth, praised her husband during the rally — and said she and her husband’s view of marriage is one of mutual respect.

“I’m proud to be here today as Mrs. Mark Harris," she said. "That title does not demean me in any way. It enhances me, as I believe that Mark would believe that our marriage has enhanced him. That’s the purpose of marriage — to bring two together into one whole that’s bigger than the individual parts.”

The 9th District stretches from Republican precincts in south Charlotte, through Union County and east to Fayetteville.

A New York Times poll released Friday showed Harris ahead by five percentage points. A Civitas poll this month showed McCready ahead by four percentage points.

The two candidates will debate Wednesday night on WBTV.

Pence said winning the 9th District is critical for the GOP if it wants to keep a majority in the House of Representatives.

“This race is important. The race could be one that it comes down to keeping the majority in the house," she said in an interview. "The reason that’s so important to Republicans is that [it's] what keeps the president’s momentum going. That’s what keeps his agenda moving.”

Pence’s speech was more subdued than the fiery speeches by other women, but she did rally the crowd with the Republican’s trademark line from 2016 campaign.

“With your continued commitment, we’ll finish what we started," she said. "We’ll Make America Great Again!"

The crowd cheered.

After Pence spoke, the crowd of 100 women and men closed the rally by singing "God Bless America."

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.