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Duke alum McCready loses 9th District race in narrow special election

Dan McCready, Trinity '05, takes a photo with supporters after a rally in Lumberton.
Dan McCready, Trinity '05, takes a photo with supporters after a rally in Lumberton.

After two years of campaigning and ten months of limbo following an election tainted by voter fraud, Democrat Dan McCready lost Tuesday's special election to become the Congressional representative for North Carolina’s 9th District.

McCready, Trinity ‘05, cast himself as a centrist, according to an analysis of the race by the New York Times, focusing on affordable access to health care and running under the motto of “country over party.” His website also lists education and tax cuts for the middle class among his priorities.

The Republican candidate, Dan Bishop, claimed victory with 50.8% of votes with 99% of votes reported, as of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night.

McCready’s bid for office appeared to end in defeat last November, when Republican Mark Harris defeated him for the seat by fewer than 1,000 votes. However, the State Board of Elections ordered a new election when it emerged that Harris had been the beneficiary of a scheme in which volunteers collected absentee ballots from voters and either destroyed them or marked them for Harris.

In the wake of the fraud scandal, Harris decided not to run in the new election and cited health issues as his reason.

Bishop was the architect of HB2, a controversial 2016 state law that was colloquially called the “bathroom bill” and required transgender people to use bathrooms that aligned with their sex at birth. The bill was passed in response to a Charlotte City Council ordinance that protected the right of transgender people to use bathrooms that aligned with their birth sex. It was repealed in 2017.

Bishop threw his lot in with President Donald Trump as he campaigned for the seat. He spoke at a Trump rally, and both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence visited the state on Monday to rally support for him. His website touts his “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, professes support for Trump’s border wall and states that “lower taxes and smaller government are better for families and better for our economy.”

The race was closely watched and regarded as an indicator of things to come in the 2020 presidential election, according to The New York Times. The candidates spent almost $14 million between them. McCready had raised $15 million as of last week, and money poured in from Republican interest groups to level the playing field.

McCready majored in economics at Duke and graduated in 2005. He served in the Marines after graduating, then started a solar energy business in North Carolina. His bid for the 9th District seat began more than two years ago, in 2017. 

Speaking to The Chronicle after a rally last month, McCready compared running to office to joining the military.

“I felt that calling again to serve when I realized really how divided our county has become, how dysfunctional Washington has become and what a need we have for new leaders,” he said.