NC-9: The First Poll is Surprising

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District

May 30, 2019 — The JMC Analytics survey research firm released the first special general election poll for North Carolina’s 9th District, and some may consider the results surprising.

According to JMC (May 21-24; 350 NC-9 registered voters), Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte) has taken a 46-42 percent lead over Democrat Dan McCready, the solar energy businessman who was the 2018 party nominee. Considering the seven-month-long vote fraud controversy that kept the North Carolina Board of Elections from certifying Republican Mark Harris as the general election victor over McCready (the unofficial total gave the GOP nominee a 905-vote edge) many expected the Democrat to open the special election campaign with a discernible advantage.

There is no doubt that McCready has a resource advantage, however, which should play a major role as this contest moves toward a Sept. 10 conclusion. In the pre-primary financial disclosure period report that ended April 24, McCready reported already raising over $2.01 million, with a $1.57 million cash-on-hand figure. In contrast, Sen. Bishop stated $505,000 raised within the same time frame, more than any individual Republican candidate at the time, but the total included a $250,000 personal loan.

While Sen. Bishop’s fundraising total pales in comparison to McCready’s, he did use his resources and district organization to score an impressive special primary election win on May 14. The Charlotte state legislator notched 48 percent of the Republican vote against nine opponents, including one, Leigh Brown who the National Association of Realtors dropped over $1 million in an independent expenditure to support, and captured the nomination outright. Under North Carolina election law, a candidate avoids a secondary run-off election by topping 30 percent of the vote.

The JMC poll appears reliable. The most telling figure reports that the sample respondents claimed to support McCready in the regular election by a 41-40 percent clip, which, considering the vote fraud controversy in one county that sent the overall result into a tailspin, looks to be correct. In another positive for Bishop and the local GOP, JMC reports President Trump’s job approval to be 55:39 percent favorable to unfavorable. This bodes well, from their perspective, especially when contrasted with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s index, recorded as only a 41:39 percent approval ratio.

Though it appeared, at least before this data release, that McCready is the favorite, it must be remembered that the 9th is a Republican district. President Trump carried the seat 54-43 percent in 2016, and Mitt Romney performed here at a similar 55-44 percent clip against President Obama in 2012. In both instances, the 9th District presidential number was considerably stronger for the Republican candidate than the state as a whole. President Trump won the Tar Heel State, 50-46 percent, while President Obama fell to Romney, 48-50 percent.

The current 9th District configuration came from the 2016 court-ordered redistricting map, which radically changed its borders. Originally drawn in 2011 as a Charlotte-based district that stretched northward up Interstate 77 as far as Statesville and into strong Republican territory, today’s 9th also begins in Charlotte but then travels southeast down the South Carolina border until it wraps around the Fayetteville suburbs in Cumberland County.

Despite the big change, then-Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-Charlotte) was still able to survive a 2016 general election that included 60 percent unfamiliar territory even though he was under a highly publicized FBI investigation for his company’s business practices, an investigation that eventually would yield no wrongdoing. But, in 2018, former pastor Harris defeated Rep. Pittenger in the GOP primary before the general election would end in the vote fraud controversy that has suspended the current result. For the record, Pittenger also claimed there were voting irregularities in the primary, but those calls went unheeded.

With this new data supporting the district’s traditional Republican leanings in comparison to the Democratic resource advantage, we can expect the NC-9 special election to soon evolve into a major campaign during the remaining three-plus month general election cycle.

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