Pastor Mark Harris has upset Rep. Robert PittengerRobert Miller PittengerThe Hill’s Morning Report: Frustration mounts as Republicans blow up tax message May brings key primaries across nation Alarmed by foreign deals, lawmakers eye new review powers MORE (R-N.C.) in his Tuesday primary, toppling the incumbent congressman after nearly him in a primary two years ago.
Pittenger conceded the race late Tuesday night, telling his supporters he had called Harris.
The victory sets Harris up for a tough general election fight that could draw outsized attention.
Harris mounted one of the toughest primary challenges to any incumbent congressman against Pittenger in 2016, where he fell just short of beating him. But this time, Harris was able to clear the bar after blasting Pittenger for departing from conservative orthodoxy on issues like the national debt and attacking Pittenger as a stalwart supporter of GOP leadership.
Pittenger had sought to push back by highlighting a voting record he described as in sync with Trump’s agenda and wooing prominent Republicans into the state to lend a hand with fundraising.
It won’t be smooth sailing to Congress for Harris, as he faces a strong Democratic challenger: Dan McCready, a veteran and small-business owner.
McCready has not only outraised the combined GOP effort in the district, but has a massive cash advantage over Harris. The Democrat has $1.2 million on hand while Harris has a paltry $71,000 as of the middle of last month.
Democrats are excited about McCready’s profile and believe he could potentially flip the seat, particularly now that the incumbency advantage is gone.
A lack of a GOP incumbency advantage, low approval ratings for Trump and concerns about GOP turnout in the year of a “Blue Moon Election” — a rare year without a gubernatorial race or Senate race on the primary — could make the general election more competitive.