North Carolina’s seemingly endless 9th District congressional race is over.
Republican Dan Bishop won the special election last night by 2 percentage points over Democrat Dan McCready in a race that drew national attention as a possible preview to the 2020 election.
On the night before the special election, President Donald Trump held a rally for Bishop in Fayetteville – at the eastern end of the 9th District.
During his victory speech last night, Bishop, a state senator from Mecklenburg County, made sure to thank the president.
"Last night I told president Trump we weren't tired of winning," Bishop said. "Are we tired of winning? We're not tired of winning. We're just getting started winning because we're seeing the successful results of Trump's agenda."
He said the economy is booming and there's record-low unemployment across every demographic.
And Bishop hammered the Democrats on immigration – a theme that he and the president campaign on.
"But a strong nation must also be a secure nation," Bishop said to cheers from the crowd. "We must secure our borders once and for all. It's time for Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in Washington to stop playing politics with our national security and give President Trump the money he needs to build the wall."
Union County helped propel Bishop to victory. He won that county with just under 60% of the vote, getting 12,000 more votes than McCready.
But Bishop’s performance there was similar to how Republican Mark Harris fared in last November’s race.
Bishop outperformed Harris in the rural eastern counties of the 9th District.
In last year’s race, McCready won six of eight counties in the 9th District, except Union and Bladen. Last night, Bishop won those two counties – and flipped Richmond and Cumberland from blue to red. And he did much better than Harris in Robeson County, a majority minority county with a large African American and Native American population.
McCready has been running for the 9th District seat for more than two years.
"Tonight, it’s OK to be disappointed," McCready said. "It’s OK to be exhausted. I know I am — I’m running fumes, y’all. But is not OK to give up. Our mission to bring this country together — this was never a mission that could be accomplished in a single election. We didn’t win this campaign tonight, but there is no doubt that our efforts over the last 27 months moved our country forward."
In last year’s race, Harris appeared to have defeated McCready by 905 votes.
But three weeks after the race, the then-chair of state board of elections, Joshua Malcolm, dropped a bombshell during a board meeting to certify the race. He said he would “no longer turn a blind eye” to what he called "unfortunate activities” in Bladen and Robeson counties.
The board then launched an investigation into absentee mail ballot fraud, in which a political operative working for Harris has been charged with illegally collecting mail ballots.
Malcolm – a Democrat – said he needed closure. So, he drove from his home in Robeson County to McCready’s party in SouthPark.
"I think the primary motivating factor for me is I reflected on the motion I made in November — the tremendous amount of fallout that came as a result of that, not just for the state but for me personally," Malcolm said. "And I knew I needed to come and see the end of that process that I triggered some months ago."
The epicenter of last year’s scandal was Bladen County.
The practice of voting by mail almost dried up in this election compared with last year, when thousands of people requested mail ballots.
But Bishop still did better than Harris in Bladen, which helped build his lead.
For Republicans, the win means they still hold 10 of the state’s 13 congressional seats.
Democrats believe the election is still a harbinger of success for next year. Bishop beat McCready by 2 percentage points, but Trump won the district by 12 points in 2016.