It’s becoming increasingly unlikely that Mark Harris will be seated in Congress. Here are the two ways that could play out.

If North Carolina does head to a special election, there will be no shortage of strong candidates looking to fill the 9th Congressional District seat. Here are the five frontrunners.

If there isn’t a special election, consider them the frontrunners in 2020.

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger

The current Congressman in this seat has to 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.

There’s no path toward a do-over of the primary, but a special election would be the next best thing from Pittenger’s perspective. As a sitting 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.

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

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

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.

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.

Dan McCready

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.


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