(The Center Square) – The North Carolina pastor whose 2018 campaign for Congress became the focus of national scrutiny is one of six Republican candidates in this year’s 8th Congressional District.
In a Republican primary that drew in more than $2 million in 2023 receipts, the Indian Trail pastor is opposed by state Rep. John Bradford III of Cornelius, Rockingham’s Chris Maples, Monroe’s Allan Baucom, Charlotte’s Don Brown and Harrisburg’s Leigh Brown. The Browns are not related.
Concord Democrat Justin Dues awaits the survivor in the general election.
Observers of voter registration say the 8th is the safest Republican district of the state’s 14. Bradford is far and away the campaign war chest leader, and Harris – on stage many times with former President Donald Trump – has name recognition even if it trudges up past baggage.
Granted, the district doesn’t stretch to Bladen County for him this time.
Bradford, entrepreneur and small business owner, is a second-term representative of District 98 in the North Carolina House. He had previously declared to run for state treasurer in this election cycle. He is campaigning on outlawing sanctuary cities, strengthening law enforcement, protecting elections, and “empowering parents in their children’s education.”
Harris, past leader of the North Carolina Baptist Convention and former senior pastor at First Baptist Charlotte, wants to restore order at the border amid the influx of migrants, and is an advocate for national defense and support of local law enforcement. He says life begins at conception and is pro-family, and he advocates for the rights of parents to school choice and to know what is going on in their child’s classroom.
His 2018 election bid was marred by a ballot harvesting scheme, centered mostly in Bladenboro where the late McCrae Dowless and 10 others were eventually charged with election crimes. Harris was not charged – his campaign employed Dowless – and at the state board hearing told the panel he wasn’t sure who rightfully won. He said throughout he was unaware of what Dowless was doing.
Harris had garnered the most votes against Democrat Dan McCready in November 2018, but that election result and two others on the county level were never certified. Harris didn’t run in the 2019 redo, but McCready did – losing to then-state Sen. Dan Bishop 50.7%-48.7%.
National reporting by newspapers in Washington and New York, and network television coverage, brought unwanted attention to Bladen County, which is no longer in this district.
Maples, a Navy veteran and aide to U.S. Reps. Richard Hudson and Bishop, wishes to bring full recognition for the Lumbee Tribe. He advocates for securing America’s borders, economic prosperity for all, restoring public safety, supports Second Amendment rights, and wants U.S. energy independence.
Baucom, a Union County businessman and farmer, is stumping on border security, national defense and supporting local law enforcement. He wants term limits for Congress. He also says he wants to restore and defend the “values our nation was founded on, before we lose our country.”
Don Brown, an author and lawyer, offers his campaign points through several YouTube videos on his campaign website. Israel, the military, taxes, national security, border security and “no legitimacy to Trump prosecutions” are some of the topics.
Leigh Brown, raised on a farm and owner of a real estate company, is campaigning for financial stability; faith, family and freedom; parental rights in schools; border security; election integrity; full recognition for the Lumbee Tribe; and “real estate policies that benefit all Americans.”
According to Federal Election Commission filings for cash on hand beginning in January, Bradford (more than $1.3 million) has more than his opponents combined. Baucom ($279,850) and Harris ($271,858) are more than $1 million behind. Leigh Brown was at $125,922 and Don Brown at $32,829. The website has no record of money coming in or going out for Maples.
The location of the district is east of Charlotte and along the South Carolina border. It includes the southeastern edge of Mecklenburg County, much of Cabarrus County, the western side of Robeson County, and all the counties between – Union, Stanly, Montgomery, Anson, Richmond and Scotland.
Registered Republicans can vote in the primary, and those unaffiliated can choose to vote in it.
The mail-in absentee ballot process began Jan. 19, in-person early voting starts Thursday and Primary Election Day is March 5. North Carolina is one of 14 states with both Democrat and Republican primaries on Super Tuesday.