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

Steve Harrison/WFAE
Leigh Brown speaks during Tuesday's candidate debate in Charlotte. Ten candidates are competing in the May 14th Republican primary for the 9th Congressional District.

Mecklenburg State Senator Dan Bishop has been the first candidate to air TV commercials in the Republican primary for the 9th Congressional District, and he’s received numerous endorsements throughout the eight-county district. 

But in Tuesday night’s debate at Dilworth Grill in Charlotte, Bishop was often focused on a relatively unknown candidate: Cabarrus County realtor Leigh Brown. She has received roughly $1.3 million in support from the National Association of Realtor’s political action committee.

Brown doesn’t live in the 9th District, but Bishop said there is a “deeper concern.”

"If your entire campaign is built on the support of a DC Super PAC, that’s a grave concern," Bishop said during the forum, sponsored by the Mecklenburg Young Republicans.

While Bishop questioned Brown’s support from realtors, Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing chided Bishop for receiving support from the Washington D.C.-based Club for Growth. Rushing said that group has spent $18,000 on a mailer criticizing his record in Union county.

Rushing said he hasn’t raised much money, and doesn’t need to – since he has a long history in the 9th District as a politician and businessman.

[Related Content: What You Need To Know About The 9th District Primary]

"If you owe everybody your soul when you get there, it’s not worth going," he said.

Rushing then bragged that he would easily beat Democrat Dan McCready if he wins the GOP primary.

"I am going to skunk Dan McCready, and I can do it on a dollar," he said. "He’s going to be so easy to beat, these guys are going to be amazed at Congressman Stony Rushing. It’s going to be on Fox News all night."

All five candidates in attendance were asked about the Mueller report, and whether President Trump had obstructed justice. Everyone fiercely defended the president.

Brown said the Mueller report showed "how tough are president is. I don’t know of anyone on the planet who could withstand the attacks he’s been under non-stop since the day he took the job."

Former state legislator Fern Shubert of Marshville defended Trump, and Stevie Rivenbark of Fayetteville said "this witch hunt is treason."

Bishop said the president wasn’t obstructing justice, but was obstructing a coup.

"If you wanted to conduct a coup with the United States, you certainly wouldn’t do it with a well-disciplined military," Bishop said. "What you would use would be the instrumentalities of prosecutorial law enforcement, and that’s what they sought to do."

Rushing also criticized the Mueller report, and then likened it to the state Board of Elections calling for a new election in the 9th Congressional District. Rushing is a strong supporter of former Republican candidate Mark Harris, and Rushing questions whether there was any absentee mail ballot fraud in last year’s race.

The Mecklenburg Young Republicans only invited six of the candidates in the race. The group said it focused on the candidates who were raising money and actively campaigning.

Former Mecklenburg Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour was invited, but was in Washington D.C. and couldn’t attend.

Early voting begins today for the Republican primary in the 9th Congressional District, with election day on May 14. 

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.