Elections

With candidates set, what happens next in the NC 9th District special election?

Ten Republicans are running in the new 9th District primary

The State Board of Elections ordered a new election after allegations of absentee ballot fraud. If none of the candidates gets 30 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held.
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The State Board of Elections ordered a new election after allegations of absentee ballot fraud. If none of the candidates gets 30 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held.

After almost two years, the 9th District congressional race feels like a marathon, but it’s going to finish in a sprint, with just weeks before a primary to pick the next Republican candidate.

The field of candidates is set, less than a month after the N.C. State Board of Elections ordered a new election because of alleged absentee ballot fraud committed by the campaign of Republican Mark Harris. The winner will face Democratic nominee Dan McCready on the ballot in the general election, since he doesn’t have a primary opponent, as well as candidates from the Green and Libertarian parties.

After the primary, there will be just a few more months before the general election — and then the winner will have to file for reelection in 2020 soon after that.

Here’s what will happen next in the 9th District election, and the answers to some common questions:

Who has a primary?

There are 13 candidates in the 9th District: 10 Republicans, and one each from the Democratic, Green and Libertarian parties. Only the Republican candidates will face a primary election, while the other candidates won’t appear on a ballot until the general election.

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What’s the schedule for the election?

The primary is set for May 14. If there’s no runoff election, the general election would be held Sept. 10. If there is a runoff, that would be held Sept. 10, and the general election would be held Nov. 5.

What are the criteria for a runoff?

If no candidate in the primary gets 30 percent of the vote, then there would be a runoff between the top two vote-getters. Until the General Assembly changed it two years ago, candidates had to clear 40 percent to win a primary election outright.

In 2012, the last time there was an open seat in the 9th District, no Republican candidate cleared the old 40 percent threshold. That meant Robert Pittenger, who racked up 33 percent of the vote, had to face No. 2 vote-getter Jim Pendergraph in a July runoff. Pittenger won that contest with 53 percent of the vote, and went on to win the seat in November.

Under the new, 30 percent threshold, however, Pittenger would not have faced a runoff in 2012.

Who can vote in the primary?

People registered as Republicans and unaffiliated voters can cast a ballot in the primary election.

Are there other elections on those dates?

The municipal elections in Charlotte — in which voters will choose their City Council members and mayor — are scheduled for the same dates as the 9th District election. The municipal primary will be held Sept. 10, which would coincide with either the 9th District runoff or general election, and the municipal general election is set for Nov. 5, which would coincide with the 9th District general if there were a runoff.

The 9th District takes up a chunk of southeast Charlotte, meaning Charlotte voters who live in the district could have twice as many reasons to go to the polls.

What will turnout be like in the primary and general election?

It’s hard to predict, because of the unusual combination of a congressional election on an odd year. Special elections and Charlotte’s municipal elections don’t tend to draw huge numbers of voters (Turnout in the low- to mid-teens is common in Charlotte’s municipal elections, for example, though turnout hit 21 percent in 2017).

The 2012 Republican runoff election between Pittenger and Pendergraph drew about 36,000 votes, while the 2014 special primary election to fill former congressman Mel Watt’s seat in the 12th District drew about 34,000 votes.

Who are the candidates?

In addition to Democrat Dan McCready, Libertarian Jeff Scott and Green Party member Allen Smith, there are 10 Republicans in the race.

They include former Mecklenburg County commissioner and Marine Corps veteran Matthew Ridenhour, Union County commissioner and gun shop owner Stony Rushing, Fayetteville medical device sales manager Stevie Rivenbark, Raleigh attorney Chris Anglin, Mecklenburg state Sen. Dan Bishop, former state legislator Fern Shubert, Kathie Day, Albert Lee Wiley Jr. of Salter Path, in the Outer Banks, Gary Dunn, a perennial candidate from Matthews who ran for Charlotte mayor in 2017 and Leigh Brown, a Realtor from Harrisburg.

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