MONROE – There was almost no disagreement on policy among six Republican candidates seeking the party’s nomination in the 9th District congressional special election at a forum on March 27.
State Sen. Dan Bishop, businesswoman Leigh Brown, Matthews resident Gary Dunn, former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour, Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing and former Union County State Sen. Fern Shubert all attended the forum sponsored by the Sweet Union Republican Women and attended by around 150 people at the Old Courthouse.
Bishop, Brown, Ridenhour, Rushing and Shubert all touted their conservative principles on issues that included supporting President Trump, building a wall on the country’s southern border and protecting the unborn and the Second Amendment.
But when it came to electability and beating expected Democratic Party nominee Dan McCready in the general election, there was a difference of opinion on who would be the best Republican candidate.
Republican Mark Harris defeated 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.
Ridenhour said during his losing 2018 re-election campaign that he received more votes than Harris and Bishop, who represents parts of south Charlotte and Matthews and Mint Hill, in the 27 voting locations where all three of their names appeared on the ballot.
“At the end of the day, who can win? Who can beat Dan McCready?” Ridenhour said. “Who can keep this seat red as it should have been when Mark Harris won the election? I know that I can beat Dan McCready. Mecklenburg County is Dan McCready’s home turf, and that is my home turf, too. I know I can beat Dan McCready in Mecklenburg County.”
Bishop countered that he is the best candidate to take on McCready in Mecklenburg County and across the rest of the district. During the forum, Bishop announced that former Union County GOP chairman Dan Barry, former Union County State Sen. Tommy Tucker, current Union County State Rep. Dean Arp and former Mecklenburg County Commissioners Karen Bentley, Bill James and Jim Puckett have all endorsed him.
“Matthew is correct, he had more votes in the precincts we shared than I did,” Bishop said. “But I won my race for re-election to the Senate and Matthew lost his race for re-election to the county commission. I am a tested and proven conservative. I was the only Republican who survived in Mecklenburg County.”
Bishop also said Ridenhour has “expressed concern” his support of HB-2 could be a problem in the general election. Bishop was the primary sponsor of HB-2, which was also known as the “Bathroom Bill.”
“It will not be a problem for me because the people throughout my district understand that people are entitled to privacy in a bathroom,” Bishop said. “It’s not hard to get. I don’t hide my principles, I never have.”
Rushing, who was the top vote-getter in the county commissioner’s race last fall, said the fact he has lived or worked in many of the counties in the district makes him the best candidate to defeat McCready. Union County accounted for 30 percent of the votes last November with Harris winning the county with 59 percent of the vote.
“A local Democrat in Mecklenburg County was asked, ‘Who do you worry about the most?’” Rushing said. “She said Stony Rushing. She knows my reach in the 9th District. She knows the support I have here in Union County, top vote-getter in the last election. I spent less than $5,000. I don’t need the name recognition, I have the name recognition.”
Shubert said she has been taking conservative stands for many years, including back when Union County was a Democratic stronghold.
“I am a traditional conservative,” Shubert said. “I have been talking for years about illegal immigration. I’m pro-life and I am pro-Second Amendment. I have a record, look at my record.”
Brown, who has been a Realtor for the past 19 years, said she would be a strong supporter of President Trump policies.
“I would like to support him in those efforts,” Brown said.
Dunn said he would represent all the people in the 9th District.
“I will protect your best interests, I will protect your constitutional rights,” Dunn said.
Stevie Rivenbark, Albert Wiley, Jim Anglin and Kathie Day are also on the ballot but did not attend the forum.
The general election, if the winner of the May 14 primary gets at least 30 percent of the vote, will be held on Sept. 10. If no Republican in the crowded field meets that threshold, then the run-off will be held Sept. 10 with the general election being held on Nov. 5.