Analysis of the recent special congressional election had to wait until after the official recount. Now the numbers can be examined that resulted in Congressman Robert Pittenger becoming the GOP nominee for re-election to Congress. The Pittenger team along with challengers Mark Harris and Todd Johnson all did a great job.
The obvious analysis that the race was close is an understatement. Pittenger beat Harris by 135 votes out of more than 26,000 cast — less than one-half percent decided the vote.
There are eight counties in the new 9th District. Johnson won the five counties of Anson, Bladen, Richmond, Scotland and Union. Harris won two counties, including Robeson and Cumberland. Pittenger won Mecklenberg County. Ironically, the candidate who won the most counties finished last and the winner of one county finished first.
The average statewide turnout was 7.73 percent and though Robeson is credited with a 2 percent turnout, the turnout number is a bit misleading. Being a heavily Democrat County, we need to correct for the low Democrat turnout that skews the overall percentage.
As Republicans had the congressional race on the ballot, 6 percent of Robeson Republicans participated, which parallels state averages. Harris won Robeson, garnering 301 — 49 percent — votes, followed by Johnson with 169 — 27 percent— and Pittenger with 141, 23 percent.
Mecklenburg was the decisive battle, won by Pittenger with 5,610 votes to Harris’ 3,765 and Johnson’s 2,373. It makes you appreciate the size of Mecklenburg — and only part of it is in the new 9th District.
Turnout was dismal. But before anyone assumes the race would have changed if only 135 more voters showed up to vote since that was the winning margin, that’s not exactly how statistics works. That would assume 100 percent of those additional voters cast a ballot for the same guy. For those interested, the Republican turnout would have to move from 6 percent to 9 percent in Robeson or about 270 more local voters to change the outcome.
That’s also assuming voting percentages stayed the same with nearly one out of every two voters — 49 percent — voting for Harris and the other voters splitting between Johnson and Pittenger, staying the same at 27 percent and 23 percent respectively. In other words, Harris would have needed about 270 voters to show up in Robeson to gain the 135 margin. Coincidentally, those are about the same percentages needed in Cumberland as well.
Johnson would have had a steeper hill to climb to beat Pittenger. Though he won the most counties, he came in last in Mecklenburg. Well, except Bladen. Bladen was a bit of an outlier for Johnson as he won 515 votes there to Harris’ 196 and Pittenger’s 52.
Pittenger should have no problem sailing through the General Election — even with 50,939 registered Democrats in Robeson alone. His opponent is an unknown Democrat challenger and also from Mecklenburg. It would take a strong Democrat from the East to change that outcome and that’s not happening this year.
The next slot to fill on the ballot is Trump’s running mate along with officially nominating Trump at the national convention just weeks away. Author and filmaker Dinesh D’Souza announced to a group of us at a recent conservative leadership conference that he is releasing his latest film to coincide with the Democrat Convention, which follows the Republican Convention and will soon be news.
Entitled “Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party,” it isn’t for the faint of heart. In fact, the producer of “The Exorcist” called D’Souza’s film “utterly terrifying” as it exposes a history Hillary doesn’t want the public to see. Hardcore Democrats probably should not watch it.
So with the special election now in the books, next to watch is the national conventions.
Phillip Stephens is chairman of the Robeson County Republican Party