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N.C. Special Election: 2018's Last Race Or 2020's 1st Race?


OK. Did you know the 28 term - 2018 midterm elections are not over yet? There's one last contest to be decided, and it's happening tomorrow. It's a do-over election in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District, which was thrown out after an absentee ballot fraud scandal. Some also say it's the first race of the 2020 elections. Here's Steve Harrison from our member station WFAE.

STEVE HARRISON, BYLINE: North Carolina State Board of Elections found that a political operative illegally collected absentee mail ballots for the Republican candidate. In some cases, he even filled in blank ballots. The victim of that alleged fraud is Democrat Dan McCready. He says Tuesday's election is a chance for justice.

DAN MCCREADY: Our right to vote is our most sacred right as Americans. You know, it's a right that people have fought and died for overseas. It's a right that people have fought for here at home in the battle for civil rights. And that was stolen from the people.

HARRISON: Last year's Republican candidate Mark Harris isn't running again. Instead, State Senator Dan Bishop is the GOP candidate. Before this race, he was known as a co-sponsor of the state's so-called bathroom bill that mandated people use the bathrooms in government buildings that matches their gender listed on their birth certificate. He's embraced President Trump, and his ads try to tie McCready to the most liberal members of Congress.


DAN BISHOP: These crazy liberal clowns - the things they say, the way they act, what they believe - they're not funny; they're downright scary. I'm Dan Bishop. What's happening in Washington right now is crazy.

HARRISON: This is a district where President Trump won by 12 percentage points in 2016. But Democrats believe McCready can win. So far in early voting, a greater percentage of registered Democrats have cast ballots compared to 2018. Democratic consultant Bill Busa says it's a sign of how energized Democratic voters are.

BILL BUSA: Oh, I think this is 2020. We're here. We're seeing what's going to happen next year - certainly around the state, possibly around the country.

HARRISON: When Republican state lawmakers drew the 9th District, It was designed to be an easy win for the GOP. It connects white wealthy neighborhoods in Charlotte that have given Republicans large margins of victory for decades to rural areas, such as Bladen County, the epicenter of the ballot fraud scandal. But in the age of Trump, Charlotte is changing. Ann McDade (ph), who's 81, has lived in the city her whole life. She's a registered Republican, but she voted early for McCready because of LGBT rights.

ANN MCDADE: I just feel like he represents my views. Dan Bishop is not - I just - I have a granddaughter who works at an LGBT theater in Virginia. And I just think that they need to have more recognition and acceptance, and I don't think Dan Bishop is that way.

HARRISON: Susan Collis was campaigning for Bishop with her sister Diane Hoefling (ph) this week at an early voting site in an upscale part of Charlotte. She says there are now license plates from northern states all over the city.

SUSAN COLLIS: And there's a whole lot of them coming in from New York, New Jersey, all these other states that are super liberal.


COLLIS: And I can't figure out why - well, most of them that I've talked to - my friends that have moved down from up there, or my neighbors, that's because their grandkids are down here. But they're bringing their politics with them.

HARRISON: Bishop is getting some last-minute help. Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to campaign for him today in Union County, and the president is scheduled to hold a rally for Bishop in Fayetteville tonight.

For NPR News, I'm Steve Harrison in Charlotte.


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