Can Democrat Dan McCready win a do-over in North Carolina?

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A North Carolina resident speaks to Democrat Dan McCready. (The Washington Post / Contributor)

On Election Day, Republican Mark Harris declared himself the victor in the race for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. Three months later, not only is he not serving in Congress, he’s not even running in the newly called special election.

Following his short-lived victory, allegations of election fraud against Harris’ campaign tainted the results and the North Carolina Board of Elections refused to certify the election, leaving the seat vacant to begin the 116th Congress.

The board unanimously declared on Feb. 21 that a special election will be held in October with a primary in May, essentially to act as a do-over. Citing health concerns, Harris, who had led the unofficial ballot tally after the original election, announced on Tuesday he won’t be running in the special. Harris’ original Democratic opponent, Dan McCready, said he will try again.

Harris on Tuesday endorsed Stony Rushing, a Republican county commissioner, for the 9th District seat. Former Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.), who lost the primary to Harris under dubious circumstances, has said he won’t run again.

Harris’ decision comes after national and state Republican leaders reportedly urged the North Carolina pastor to sit out of the rematch. His chances didn’t look great, considering the optics of the election fraud controversy and the fact that his campaign had just $19,131 cash on hand compared to McCready’s $337,839 at the end of 2018.

McCready enjoyed a serious cash advantage throughout the 2018 cycle, raising more than $6.6 million compared to $2.1 million for Harris, and brought in substantial sums throughout the election fraud investigation.

With extra cash on hand, McCready is spending money to make money. According to Facebook’s ad archive, he spent more than $49,000 from Feb. 17 to Feb. 23 on Facebook ads in an attempt to draw in donors. Though many of his ads exclusively target North Carolina residents, McCready’s campaign also reaches out to California, New York, Texas and Florida, signaling that he believes Democrats across the country are invested in the race.

He may again come to rely on donors from those far-away states. In the 2018 election, a majority of individual itemized contributions to McCready, almost 55 percent or nearly $2.9 million, came from out of state donors.  

McCready enjoyed a cash advantage and an outside spending advantage in 2018. Outside spending groups shelled out $4.6 million to help McCready, most of which went toward negative ads against Harris. The DCCC spent just over $1 million on the race and liberal “dark money” 501(c) Patriot Majority USA dropped $944,060 to help McCready.

Harris received support from Congressional Leadership Fund ($1.2 million) and the NRCC ($900,060), but outside spending groups only dropped $3.1 million to aid his campaign.

Notable national Democratic figures, as varied as Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, have come out in support of McCready’s latest bid. Presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) tweeted a fundraising link on Sunday which would evenly split all donations between Booker and McCready.  

Cook Political Report labels the race a toss up.

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