MONROE – During a North Carolina 9th District Republican Primary forum on May 7, former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour quipped that he was taking more than his allotted time to answer a question because the event had turned into the “Dan and Stony show.”
Ridenhour was referring to N.C. Sen. Dan Bishop and Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing, who are front runners in the primary election May 14.
Eight of the 10 candidates on the Republican Primary ballot participated in the forum sponsored by WBT Radio 1110 AM. About 300 people attended the event at the Union County Agricultural Center.
Republican Mark Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in last year’s general election but the state ordered a new election after allegations of absentee voter fraud emerged. Harris, who supported the call for a new election, is not running in the May 14 primary.
The general election, if the winner of the May 14 primary gets at least 30 percent of the vote, will be held Sept. 10. If no Republican in the crowded field meets that threshold, then the Republican run-off will be held Sept. 10 with the general election following Nov. 5. McCready is running unopposed in the Democratic Primary on May 14.
A poll released May 3 by the National Journal’s Hotline has Bishop leading the crowded field with 31%. Rushing was next at 17% while Ridenhour is at 9%. Leigh Brown was fourth at 6% while none of the other six candidates registered more than 5%. The most recent FEC reports show Bishop as the top fundraiser with $537,000 but a real estate political action committee has spent over $1 million in support of Brown.
Bishop and Rushing traded barbs at times during the debate, which saw all the candidates agreeing on most major issues.
Rushing attacked Bishop for the support he is getting from the conservative PAC Club for Growth. The Club for Growth has spent money attacking Rushing, who pointed out that the group spent over $7 million attacking President Donald Trump during the 2016 GOP presidential primary campaign.
“First of all, the Club for Growth endorsed Mark Harris as I did (in the 2018 primary),” Bishop responded. “You endorsed (former congressman) Robert Pittenger. You would be delighted to have the endorsement of the Club for Growth, one of the preeminent conservative forces in the country.’’
Rushing was asked about an old YouTube video where he stated that a fellow commissioner “was fixing to get his rear end whipped” during a heated county commissioners meeting. The moderator asked Rushing if that is what the people will see from him in Washington?
“Maybe we need a little of that in Washington,” Rushing responded. “The reason I was so angry that night was because the people of Union County were having money taken away from them illegally. We had been told by our lawyers it was illegal in what they were doing and yet they had three votes regardless of the arguments that we made. I don’t regret that because the people of Union County suffered greatly because of that vote.”
Rushing was also asked about his admitted extra-marital affair and the impact it could have on the race.
“I have admitted that to a lot of people,” Rushing said. “I haven’t made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I have made some and that was the biggest one. If you guys would ask Dan McCready one question about abortion, taxes or anything else that he would actually answer, I would be glad to give you my sexual history from the loss of virginity.”
Stevie Rivenbark questioned if that type of behavior would bode well in the general election against McCready.
“How are you going to reach out to independent voters?” Rivenbark asked.
Bishop was questioned about his support in 2016 of HB2, which is better known as the “bathroom bill,” and asked if his support of the law, which was later changed, would be a liability in the general election.
“I don’t think so,” Bishop said. “Everybody knows where I stood. I have been through scrutiny on that nationally and internationally. I think people are ready to move on from that. There are new issues, and issues are now whether we are going to stop illegal immigration, defend the Second Amendment.”
Brown, who has never held political office, said the party will have a challenge in the general election over HB2 if Bishop is the nominee.
“We have to bring all reasonable people to the Republican Party with a person who has no political baggage like myself,” Brown said.
Brown, however, was questioned about the National Association of Realtors PAC running ads on her behalf after being one of the group’s top political fundraisers just before announcing her bid for Congress. Brown, who owns a real estate company, was asked if she had a deal with the PAC “that I’ll raise the money, then I’ll run and you run campaign ads for me?”
“Absolutely not,” Brown responded. “I am a woman of honor and integrity. Every word, every action, every email, every text is open for scrutiny.”