Republican state senator Dan Bishop narrowly won a special congressional election in North Carolina’s ninth district on Tuesday after an eleventh-hour rally held by President Trump helped secure his victory. 

Bishop’s slim margin of victory in a traditionally Republican-leaning district—a Democrat hasn’t represented the district since the 1960s—will be taken into account by Republicans and Democrats as 2020 elections approach and Republicans look to regain a majority in the House. 

Bishop defeated moderate Democrat Dan McCready by just two percentage points, in a district that Trump won by 12 points in 2016. McCready performed well with suburban voters, a group that is increasingly turning away from Trump, while Bishop drew support from rural voters.  

The special election was called after the 2018 midterm election was declared invalid due to evidence of ballot fraud by a GOP operative. The 2018 Republican nominee, Mark Harris, had defeated McCready by fewer than 1,000 votes before the results were thrown out. Harris declined to run again this year, and Bishop took his place.

Bishop describes himself as “pro-life, pro-gun and pro-wall,” and is known for writing North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” which prohibited transgender individuals from using bathrooms or locker rooms that corresponded to their gender identity. He is in favor of eliminating sanctuary cities and constructing a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and has said securing the borders will be one of his top priorities. 

On Monday, with polls still showing a close election, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence came to the ninth district to campaign for Bishop. But despite efforts by both parties to reach constituents, voter turnout totaled only 26%, compared to 53% in last year’s election. 

Bishop was quick to give credit to Trump for his win, praising him in his victory speech as “the greatest fighter ever to occupy the White House,” and thanking the President and Vice President for their continued support throughout the campaign. 

McCready, a Marine Corps veteran, campaigned as a moderate and distanced himself from more liberal policies including Medicare for All and an assault weapons ban. His slogan, “country over party,” was intended to draw voters regardless of their political affiliation, and he promised to work across the aisle to lower healthcare costs, improve education and cut taxes for the middle class.

“This was never a campaign about partisanship,” said McCready in his concession speech. “This was always a campaign about values. And we rallied together around the idea that as Americans we are all in this together. We may not have won this campaign, but that does not mean that we were wrong.”

Republicans will need to win 18 seats in 2020 to regain a majority in the House. 

Written ByGrace Symes

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