In Ohio, West Virginia, and Indiana, primaries went pretty much according to plan. Former Obama Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief Richard Cordray will face off against GOP AG Mike DeWine for Ohio governor, Convicted WV con man Don Blankenship finished third in his primary to take on Joe Manchin in November, and Mike Pence's brother Gary will be running for Mike's old House seat.
But in North Carolina, things got pretty surprising last night as NC-9 GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger is out after losing his primary to challenger Mark Harris.
Former Charlotte pastor Mark Harris defeated Rep. Robert Pittenger in Tuesday's primary in North Carolina's 9th District, making him the first incumbent in the country to lose this year.
Pittenger also became North Carolina's first member of Congress in memory to lose a primary to a nonincumbent opponent.
"I've called Mark Harris, I've conceded the race and I wish him the best," Pittenger told supporters at what was expected to be a victory party.
Harris said, "I invite the congressman and his supporters to join our journey as we focus on keeping the 9th District red in November, ensuring the hard-working people of the 9th District have a congressman who is focused on representing them and their values ... "
The 9th contains Monroe and the southwest Charlotte suburbs and the counties east along the border with SC, up into Fayetteville, along where US Highway 74 and Interstate 74 cross, out to Interstate 95. It's arguably the most boring part of the state I grew up in, nothing much out that way but tobacco farms and Lumberton (where David Lynch set Blue Velvet) and it's still a good hour and change to the coast. Believe me, made the trip out through here several times over the years. You're not missing much.
But Pittenger going down means the Dems have a real shot in what's now an open district.
With nearly 95 percent of the precincts counted, Harris had 48.5 percent to Pittenger's 46.2 percent. A third candidate, Clarence Goins of Cumberland County, had 5.3 percent.
Harris enjoyed leads in Union and Bladen counties that had offset Pittenger's lead in Mecklenburg.
Pittenger, a former state senator first elected in 2012, was seeking a fourth term in the district that extends from southeast Charlotte east to Bladen County. In 2016 he defeated Harris by 134 votes, one of the country's closest congressional races.
Harris cast the primary as a battle for "the heart and soul of the Republican Party." He ran as much against the GOP-controlled Congress as against Pittenger. He said Pittenger was part of the Washington "swamp."
Pittenger had the backing of Washington's GOP leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who wrote a testimonial, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who visited for a fundraiser. Vice President Mike Pence shared a Charlotte stage with him.
Harris sided with mavericks, once suggesting he'd support a co-founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus for speaker.
In TV ads and on the stump, each candidate portrayed himself as President Donald Trump's more loyal supporter.
Here's the thing through, NC-9 has a significant black and Native American population. It's R+8, which is exactly the kind of district the Dems would need to win in order to take back the House, and in a wave year, this would be a district that would go blue. It's one of the districts that got redrawn twice in in the last five years over the state's GOP gerrymandering fight. The Democrat in the race is Dan McCready.
Democrats compare McCready, a Marine combat veteran, to Conor Lamb, the Democrat who won a special election this year in a Pennsylvania district that had gone for Trump by 20 points. McCready has attempted to steer toward the middle of the road, saying he would not support Nancy Pelosi for Democratic leader.
These are the red state districts Dems will have to win and keep in order to take the House, guys. Until things can get redrawn in 2021, Republican-leaning districts like this are going to be the key.