Dan Bishop, the North Carolina state legislator who was lead sponsor of the infamous “bathroom bill,” has now won a seat in the U.S. House.
With almost all of the vote counted shortly after 10 p.m. Eastern Tuesday, Bishop, a Republican, was leading Democrat Dan McCready by about two percentage points, leading The New York Times to call the election in the Charlotte-area Ninth Congressional District for him.
The special election was held because last November’s election in the district was nullified due to allegations of voter fraud on the part of an operative working for Republican candidate Mark Harris, an anti-LGBTQ minister who appeared to have narrowly defeated McCready, an entrepreneur and military veteran who supports LGBTQ equality. That operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, faces felony charges related to the improper collection of absentee ballots.
Harris, who had defeated incumbent Robert Pittenger in the 2018 Republican primary, decided not to run again. McCready did decide to run again, and his new Republican opponent was Bishop, who emerged the winner in a new primary in May.
Bishop, currently a state senator, was the chief sponsor of HB 2, which North Carolina legislators passed in 2016 but has since been partially repealed. The measure was known as a “bathroom bill” because it prohibited transgender people from accessing the restrooms and other single-sex facilities comporting with their gender identity when those facilities are in government buildings, including public schools and state colleges and universities. It also, among other things, prevented city and county governments from enacting or enforcing LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws. The state suffered boycotts by businesses, entertainers, and sporting events as a result.
The race between Bishop and McCready was close even though the district leans Republican, having voted for Donald Trump by a substantial margin in 2016. “What alarmed national Republicans was how ominously it recalled the midterm elections: As with so many races last year, a centrist Democrat raised significantly more money than the Republican candidate,” the Times notes. “And it happened in a historically conservative district that is now tilting toward the political center because of the suburban drift away from the G.O.P.”
And the campaign drew national attention. Trump and Mike Pence came to North Carolina to rally for Bishop and another GOP congressional candidate, the Third District’s Greg Murphy, Monday night. Trump called McCready an advocate of sanctuary cities who would protect unauthorized immigrants, including those who are criminals — which McCready and his campaign staff said was not true.
The Third District election was called for Murphy much earlier in the evening, as he defeated Democrat Allen Thomas by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent in the heavily GOP district, which covers much of the state’s coast. The election took place to fill the post left vacant when longtime U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican, died in February. Murphy, a physician who has been a state representative since 2015, is deeply conservative; he voted for HB 2 in 2016, and at the rally Monday, he claimed that Democrats want to “destroy the nuclear family.” Thomas, a former mayor of Greenville, ran on a platform of expanding health care, strengthening gun control, celebrating diversity, and restoring civility to politics.