This story was originally published in December when the specter of a special election first arose. It was updated when the State Board of Elections officially declared that a new election would be held.

It’s official. The State Board of Election has declared that North Carolina needs to hold a new election in the 9th Congressional District as evidence of absentee-by-mail ballot fraud tainted the results.

Republican Mark Harris had won a 900-vote victory over Democrat Dan McCready in the unofficial results. But on Thursday, after four grueling days of testimony in Raleigh, he announced that he, too, would like to see a special election.

Harris will be able to run again in the special election. But he would likely have a tough time, and not just because of the fraud scandal. He’s also in poor health, hospitalized in January for a blood infection and suffering several strokes.

There will be no shortage of strong candidates looking to fill the 9th Congressional District seat. Here are the frontrunners.

Kenny Smith

The former Charlotte city councilman raised a lot of money for his unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2017. Chances are he’d be able to raise even more for a U.S. House seat, and raise it in a hurry.

Smith has crossover appeal in the urban part of the district and conservative bona fides that would likely help him in Union County and beyond.

Photo by Kenny Smith via Facebook

Dan Barry

The path to victory in a Republican primary runs through Union County, and the head of the county GOP would have a distinct advantage. With former Congressional candidate Todd Johnson newly elected to the N.C. Senate, Barry would be the top contender from Union County.

Barry ran for the seat in 2012 in the Republican primary ultimately carried by Pittenger, so he’s no stranger to the district or this race.

Photo by Dan Barry via Facebook

Matthew Ridenhour

The former Mecklenburg County commissioner has carved out a reputation as a thoughtful, pragmatic leader who garners bipartisan praise. That would serve him well in a general election for the 9th District. Ridenhour formerly served in the U.S. Marines as well, setting up an extremely compelling matchup against fellow Marine McCready.

Matthew Ridenhour

Tommy Tucker

The former state Senator from Union County is reportedly considering a bid after declining to run for re-election to the General Assembly in 2018. Union County is key to winning the seat, and even more important for a primary election.

Dan McCready

On the Democratic side, there are no real contenders in a special election except this year’s candidate. McCready would also enter the race as the wronged party, and he handled his early (tainted) loss with grace. He already had massive appeal on both sides of the aisle and would be formidable in a special election.

McCready has also continued to raise gobs of money while the investigation has gone on.

Dan McCready

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger

The most recent Congressman in this seat would normally be the presumptive favorite on the Republican side. Pittenger lost the primary in May by only a few hundred votes in a race that’s also been called into question.

However, he’s already publicly said he would not run again. This doesn’t bind him, and he could change his mind.

As a former member of Congress, he has a built-in campaign infrastructure and the ability to raise a large amount of money quickly. He also would enter the race as a wronged party with some sympathy.

Photo by Congressman Robert Pittenger via Facebook.

Honorable mentions

  • Mark Harris
  • Sen. Danny Britt, a Republican from Robeson County.
  • Pat McCrory, though he’s said he will not run.
  • Scott Stone, who most recently served in the N.C. House.
  • Jeff Scott, the Libertarian candidate who picked up 5,000 votes the first go-round and is likely to run again.

Cover image of downtown Monroe via Flickr (Creative Commons)


  1. As with the Democrats, the Libertarian Party frontrunner would undoubtedly be Jeff Scott, the candidate the party ran in the original election. Despite spending almost no money, being ignored by the media, and frozen out of the debate, his articulate anti-war, anti-kleptocracy campaign resounded with enough voters that he garnered nearly six times as many votes as the difference between his establishment party opponents. Theoretically, there are more than enough libertarian voters in the district to decide a close race.

    • Agreed. Mr. Scott will be right there, in the race. With enough voters attuned to his peace and good government message that the establishment party candidate who does the better job speaking to libertarian issues could garner a decisive advantage.

      • “Agreed”? I think you’ve misunderstood my post. “…six times as many votes as the difference between…” Harris/McCready amounted to a mere 5,130 votes out of nearly a quarter million. If Scott runs again in the special election, I expect his outcome will be just as dismal. Good thing, too, as Rand Paul, Mark Meadows and a few misguided others so ably demonstrate.

  2. Where were all those potential Republican contenders during the 2018 primary? You’re right about McCready, tho. He’s the “wronged” candidate. Has tons of money, with tons more to come both thru small donors and the NCDP/DNC. And thanks to Harris/NCGOP, Dems can hang real “election fraud” concerns around the GOP all year long.

    Good job, boys.

  3. “The more charitable interpretation: Harris finally realized the deck was stacked against him with Democrats leading the two bodies with decision-making power: the elections board and the U.S. House. And with his health suffering, he was simply done fighting.”

    Andy: Rather than insightful, your “charitable” interpretation is infuriating…and once again reveals your partisan DNA. You say Harris “finally realized” something that was apparent from the start: The Democrats took over the U.S. House in November, and the NC Elections Board was 3/2 Democrat. If he saw that as a “stacked deck,” why didn’t he call for a new election on Day 1 of the hearings…rather than Day 4, and after he perjured himself about not know Dowless’ background despite email evidence from his own son that was (belatedly, blindsiding the Defense) put into evidence?

    We’ll see if Harris’ “health suffering” is not only reason to give up his fight, but to withdraw altogether from the special election.


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