The Slatest

Republicans Narrowly Win North Carolina’s Do-Over Special Election

Republican candidate Dan Bishop greets voters outside of a polling station on Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Republican candidate Dan Bishop greets voters outside of a polling station on Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Ten months after the results of its congressional election were tossed out after allegations of election fraud, North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District finally knows who it will be sending to Congress. Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop, a vocal supporter of Donald Trump, won the makeup special election on Tuesday night, defeating Democratic candidate Dan McCready by roughly 4,000 votes out of about 190,000 cast, with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

The results in Tuesday’s election were eerily similar to those of the election last November, in which Republican candidate Mark Harris “defeated” McCready by about 900 votes. McCready, again, carried Mecklenburg County, home to Charlotte, by about 10 percentage points. But it wasn’t enough to counter Bishop’s dominance in neighboring Union County to its immediate east. In 2018, Harris carried Union County by 20 percentage points, 59 to 39. On Tuesday, Bishop carried it 60 to 39.

Both sides had been lowering expectations in recent days. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee noted in a briefing with reports that Trump won the district by 12 percentage points in 2016, and that Democrats hold only three seats that Trump won by an equal or greater margin. On Tuesday morning, meanwhile, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise referred to North Carolina’s 9th District, a seat that Democrats haven’t held since the early 1960s, as a “very tough swing district.” His superior, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, said, meanwhile, that “special elections are just what they are: special.” We look forward to both Scalise and McCarthy saying, now, that these results prove House Republicans are back and the Democratic Party has been wholly defeated as a political entity, while Democrats say they didn’t really want to win this district anyway.

Republicans will be relieved to have avoided the humiliation of a special election defeat in a solidly Republican district, but it is still not a great sign for their 2020 prospects that they were barely able to hold onto a solidly Republican district. The House has suffered a wave of Republican retirements in recent weeks, which is typically a sign that incumbents in the minority aren’t too excited about their prospects for retaking the majority. This narrow win won’t change that outlook.