The race that North Carolina’s political world has expected for months is finally here. It just doesn’t look quite like how we expected it to.

This special election was called after the State Board of Elections ruled that allegations of absentee by mail election fraud tainted the results of last November’s election, where Republican Mark Harris appeared to squeak out a 900-vote win over Democrat Dan McCready.

McCready has been campaigning non-stop since then as the investigation gobbled up national attention.

This district almost made more news for who opted NOT to run. Harris was eligible to run again but decided against it — citing his health. Former Gov. Pat McCrory stoked speculation that he would throw his hat in the ring, but ultimately decided against it.

Others who reportedly considered a bid but opted out are former Union County GOP leader Dan Barry, former Sen. Tommy Tucker of Union County, and former Charlotte mayoral candidate Kenny Smith.

Here are the frontrunners, long shots and also-rans of the 13 running this year. The primary election is May 14.

The frontrunners

Dan Bishop (R) The state senator was the lone General Assembly member from Mecklenburg County to survive the blue wave of 2018. He has a reputation as a social conservative, which will play well in neighboring Union County. Bishop is also a tough campaigner and will likely fight back hard against attacks against his authorship of the infamous “bathroom bill,” House Bill 2.

Matthew Ridenhour (R). The former Mecklenburg County commissioner has earned a reputation as a thoughtful and pragmatic leader. A former Marine who served in Iraq, Ridenhour has already started levying attacks on McCready, saying “it takes a Marine to beat a Marine.” Can he ramp up a Congressional campaign fast enough to avoid splitting votes with Bishop?

Matthew Ridenhour

Stony Rushing (R). The Union County commissioner was the top vote-getter in that body He’s a plain-speaker and probably the most Trump-y of the bunch. Rushing also got the endorsement from Mark Harris — but will that help him or hurt him?

Dan McCready (D). McCready is the only Democrat to file for the race, but don’t expect him to breathe easy in this short campaign season. He’s a well-funded candidate who continues to bring in a lot of national support. Will he be able to continue to distance himself from the national Democratic Party now that they’ve taken the House?

Dan McCready

The long shots

Stevie Rivenbark Hull (R). The Fayetteville sales manager has a super compelling story. She was nearly killed in a 2012 car accident while pregnant but elected to put off some medical care to carry her baby to term. However, it’s tough to win in this district without racking up votes in Mecklenburg and Union counties. Can Rivenbark get her message out in the Charlotte area?

Fern Shubert (R). She’s formerly Republican whip of the North Carolina state Senate, but hasn’t been elected to anything since 2002. Not for lack of trying. Shubert finished fifth in the 2004 gubernatorial primary, failed in a primary challenge to Sen. Tommy Tucker in 2010, and then finished third in the GOP primary for state auditor in 2012.

Jeff Scott (L). The Libertarian candidate is back in the race and will appear on the general election ballot. He came in with 1.8% of the vote in 2018. That could make a difference in a close race.

Leigh Thomas Brown (R). Brown is a Charlotte realtor, motivational speaker, and a newcomer to politics.

The also-rans

Allen Smith. Smith is a Green Party candidate and as the only one in the race, will appear on the general election ballot.

Gary Dunn (R)

Chris Anglin. Yes, this is the same Chris Anglin who changed his party affiliation to run as a Republican in the state Supreme Court race. He lives in Raleigh but for some reason wants to run here. Will he turn into a gadfly candidate?

Albert Lee Wiley, Jr. (R)

Kathie C. Day (R)

Cover image of downtown Monroe via Flickr (Creative Commons)


  1. You ask whether Stevie Rivenbark Hull can get her message out. Well, what is her message? You never say. And harrowing as putting off needed surgery until you give birth may be, how does that qualify you for the U.S. House? You’re a political blogger. Shouldn’t you be asking these questions?

  2. Odds are, on the GOP side, in NC-09 we’re going to go from a pastor to a …wait for it…Bishop. So long separation of church & state. You had a good run. 😉

  3. “It takes a marine to beat a marine”? Really? Come on, GOP. Surely you want to pick your second attempt at this seat on more than that! Anything you want to say about issues? Ethics? Election fraud? (Asking for a friend.)

  4. Bishop/McCrory cost this state millions with the HB2 mess. No thank you Dan. Did you watch the State of the Union? All those Dem women in white and a bunch of white haired men on the Rep side. We need conservative female voices in Washington. Rivenbark is the right choice.

  5. Hey Stephen ADVOKAT, from a Pastor to a Bishop! Hilarious. I am going to steal that for my campaign. If you develop any other great messages or slogans, send them to me at I will steal them and not give you credit!! And you are correct, that “marine to beat a marine” is pretty trite. Even though I like Matt personally, he can do better than that. Still, it’s not clear that any candidate has a lot of control over the virality (is that a word?) of short messages that they push out, so maybe he will retreat from that statement over time.


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