NORTH CAROLINA — Former Republican candidate Mark Harris said he will not be running in the new North Carolina Congressional District 9 election, but endorsed Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing.
Several well-known political figures also said they will not run, including Union County GOP Chairman Daniel Barry, former Gov. Pat McCrory and former Charlotte Councilman Kenny Smith.
Smith announced Sunday he will not run, saying it isn't the right time due to family and work commitments.
Former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour told Channel 9 political reporter Joe Bruno on Wednesday that he will be running.
“I've got a story that I think can go toe-to-toe with Dan McCready,” Ridenhour said.
Like Democrat McCready, who the Republican primary winner will face, Ridenhour is a Marine. He served for 11 years with two tours in Iraq.
Ridenhour said his service on the Mecklenburg County Commission for six years has prepared him for the race.
“That ability to just relate to people, to offer commonsense solutions and inject some of that in the DC political world,” he said.
In addition to Ridenhour and Rushing, Fayetteville businesswoman Stevie Rivenbark and Wake County police Officer David Blackwelder said they are running.
Others on the fence include state Sen. Dan Bishop and former state Sen. Tommy Tucker.
Political expert Michael Bitzer said a crowded field may lead to a runoff. The primary will likely come down to Union and Mecklenburg counties.
“The question is, are there multiple candidates from both of those counties and do they consistently split the vote from those two counties?” Bitzer said.
Ridenhour believes he is McCready's strongest challenger. He said he intends to make sure his Democratic opponent takes stances on issues.
"[McCready's] party is being driven by some of the loud, socialist ideas and personas. How do you feel about that?," Ridenhour said.
Ridenhour said his top issues are reforming the VA, reducing the national debt and foreign policy.
A new poll has McCready and a Republican challenger neck and neck.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a poll showing McCready is up four points on a generic Republican candidate due to name recognition and his fundraising head start, but the results are within the margin of error.
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The North Carolina State Board of Elections unanimously voted on the dates of the new election for Congressional District 9, saying filing for the election will start Monday, March 11.
The primary election will be held May 14 and the general election will be held on Sept. 10.
If there is a need for a second primary, the runoff election will be held on Sept. 10 and the general election will be held on Nov. 5.
Those dates line up the 9th District with the Charlotte City Council and mayoral election timelines.
Director Kim Strach said the dates will give the State Board of Elections time to have staff on the ground in Bladen and Robeson counties to help with oversight.
“We think it is extremely important that our staff be on the ground in Bladen and Robeson County throughout this process, ensuring that training and, basically, all aspects of election preparation are done with our oversight,” Stratch said.
Many believed it would have been timed with the special election for the 3rd District, which would have meant a late April primary and a July general election.
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