RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina legislator who loaned his campaign $250,000 is leading fundraising among 10 Republicans facing a May primary for a congressional seat left vacant because a ballot-collection scandal that voided November’s election.
State Sen. Dan Bishop of Charlotte collected $130,717 from individuals and $6,500 from political committees in the year’s first quarter in addition to a quarter-million dollars of his own money, reports filed Monday with the Federal Elections Commission show. Bishop had nearly $381,000 on hand at the end of March en route to a May primary in the special election for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.
A state elections board in February found last year’s contest was tainted and ordered the new election. An investigation found the Republican candidate in November, Mark Harris, recruited a political operative in a rural county who collected and could have tampered with mail-in ballots. The operative has since been charged with state election crimes but has professed his innocence.
The finance reports are an early glimpse into which Republicans have an advantage in the fight to win nomination and face Dan McCready, the Democrat who apparently lost narrowly to Harris in November. McCready has no primary opponent but has reported contributions of $1.5 million in the quarter and had $1.46 million on hand.
Former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour was second in the GOP pack ahead of the May 14 primary, raising less than half of what Bishop garnered from individuals.
Ridenhour reported raising almost $64,000 and holding more than $62,000 in cash. His contributions included $1,000 from former U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, who lost last year’s primary to Harris and endorsed Ridenhour. The candidate also got $2,800 from Dan DiMicco, the retired head of Charlotte-based steelmaker Nucor Corp. Ridenhour said he didn’t expect to top Bishop in fundraising since he was only active for the last month of the quarter.
I’m “definitely getting strong support from some major donors but then I’m also just as excited about having around 250 people donate to the campaign,” he said. “I think it shows real strong grass roots support.”
Realtor Leigh Brown reported raising $37,880 during the quarter, with all but $2,300 of her individual donations coming from people around the country who also work in the real estate industry. The National Association of Realtors political action committee is spending more than $674,000 on ads at three Charlotte TV stations backing Brown, the Charlotte Observer reported.
Brown sued the FEC Thursday after it didn’t vote in favor of allowing her to keep advertising her real estate business without it counting as campaign advertising. Brown has promoted her real estate business on radio for 13 years and has a contract with a conservative talk radio station in Charlotte that reaches listeners over a wide span of the 9th district. Spots for Leigh Brown & Associates shouldn’t count as campaign ad for Leigh Brown, the candidate, her lawyers argued. A hearing is scheduled April. 26.
Harris’ favored candidate, Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing, reported raising almost $36,300 during the quarter, all from individuals. He had $20,549 on hand at the end of the period.
Stevie Rivenbark Hull of Fayetteville raised $11,085 and ended the quarter with $7,073 in cash on hand.
The other five GOP candidates did not show quarterly reports to the FEC.
McCready’s campaign spent $507,560 in the quarter, including salaries for 15 people, showing he is ramping up to face the eventual Republican nominee.
The Democrat’s campaign also reported returning a $2,000 contribution from freshman U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. McCready spokesman Aaron Simpson did not respond when asked why the campaign returned the money on March 30.
Omar has attracted nationwide attention and made some Democrats uncomfortable with remarks about the power of Jewish influence in Washington, but she has also attracted support and raised nearly $830,000 in the first quarter for her re-election.
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