North Carolina Special Election Could Be A Nail-Biter For House GOP A do-over congressional election in North Carolina may test whether suburban voters who were once reliably Republican are still loyal.
NPR logo In North Carolina, The Last Election Of 2018 Is Also The First Election Of 2020

In North Carolina, The Last Election Of 2018 Is Also The First Election Of 2020

President Trump on stage with Republican candidate Dan Bishop during a campaign rally in Fayetteville, N.C., on Monday. The do-over congressional election may test whether reliably Republican suburban voters are still loyal. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump on stage with Republican candidate Dan Bishop during a campaign rally in Fayetteville, N.C., on Monday. The do-over congressional election may test whether reliably Republican suburban voters are still loyal.

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump is betting that his political brand will help Republicans keep hold of a U.S. House seat in North Carolina during a special election Tuesday.

"To stop the far left, you must vote in tomorrow's special election," Trump said at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, N.C., on Monday night. The rally was held for the Republican candidate running in the 9th Congressional District, state Sen. Dan Bishop.

Bishop promised the crowd, mostly decked out in Make America Great Again hats, that he would "defend your values in Washington, D.C."

Bishop is running in a do-over election from last November after North Carolina's Board of Elections found that a political operative illegally collected absentee mail ballots for the Republican candidate, Mark Harris.

The state ordered a new election, which will officially be the last race from the 2018 midterms. Harris isn't running again.

Democrat Dan McCready, the victim of that alleged fraud, says Tuesday's election is a chance for justice.

"Our right to vote is our most sacred right as Americans," McCready said. "It's a right that people have fought for here at home in the battle for civil rights. And that was stolen from the people."

Trump hammered McCready at Monday night's rally for his stance on immigration, saying he supports sanctuary cities (though that's not quite true — more on that from WFAE here.)

Bishop, a social conservative who won the GOP primary in May, was known before this race as a co-sponsor of HB2, North Carolina's bathroom bill that mandated people in government buildings use the bathroom that matches their sex listed on their birth certificate.

He's embraced Trump. In one TV commercial, he tries to tie McCready to the most liberal members of Congress, whom he called "crazy liberal clowns."

Democratic candidate Dan McCready talks to volunteers at his campaign office in Waxhaw, N.C., last weekend. Alan Fram/AP hide caption

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Alan Fram/AP

Democratic candidate Dan McCready talks to volunteers at his campaign office in Waxhaw, N.C., last weekend.

Alan Fram/AP

While Trump won the district by 12 percentage points in 2016, Democrats believe McCready can upset Bishop based on his strong performance last November. In early voting, a greater percentage of registered Democrats have cast ballots compared to 2018. A smaller percentage of Republicans have voted early.

On his way to the rally, Trump told reporters he believes his support will pay off for Bishop. "I think it's getting less close," Trump said. "If you look at the numbers from two weeks ago, and I got involved about two weeks ago, and the numbers have gone way up."

Democratic consultant Bill Busa says it's a sign of how energized Democratic voters are.

"Oh, I think this is 2020," he said. "We're here. We're seeing what's going to happen next year — certainly around the state, and possibly around the country."

When Republican state lawmakers drew the 9th District, it was designed to be an easy win for the GOP.

It connects white, wealthy neighborhoods in Charlotte that have given Republicans large margins of victory for decades to rural areas such as Bladen County, the epicenter of the ballot fraud scandal.

But in the age of Trump, Charlotte is changing.

Ann McDade, 81, has lived in the city her whole life. She's a registered Republican, but she voted early for McCready because of LGBT rights.

"I just feel like he represents my views," McDade said. "I have a granddaughter who works at an LGBT theater in Virginia, and I just think they need more recognition and acceptance, and I don't think Dan Bishop is that way."

Susan Collis was campaigning for Bishop this week at an early voting site in an upscale part of Charlotte.

She said newcomers have changed Charlotte. She said she sees license plates from northern states all over the city.

"And there's a whole lot of them coming in from New York, New Jersey, all these other states that are super liberal," she said. "And I can't figure out why. Most of them that I have talked to moved down here — it's because their grandkids. But they are bringing their politics with them. And they don't like their politics back home."