CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It is one of the most-watched races in the country, and on Wednesday night, the two candidates for North Carolina’s 9th congressional district took the gloves off during a debate organized by Spectrum News.

  • Mark Harris and Dan McCready faced off in a Spectrum News debate.
  • North Carolina's 9th congressional district race is one of the most closely-watched in the nation. 
  • Election Day is Tuesday, November 6. 

Dan McCready, the Democrat and Iraq War veteran, and Mark Harris, the Republican and former preacher, repeatedly took aim at each other, sometimes launching personal attacks. The debate's tone was starkly different than the more staid first debate last week.

“Mark Harris is not someone who puts country over party, he puts his own extreme ideology over everything else,” McCready said.

“I’m sick and tired of my positions and my record being misrepresented,” Harris fired back at another point in the debate.

The 9th district has historically been controlled by Republicans, but Democrats see opportunity in the district, especially after incumbent Robert Pittenger, a Republican, lost to Harris in the primary. Many election-watchers, including The Cook Political Report, now label the 9th district a "toss-up."

On the issues, the two struggled to point to much of anything they had in common during the debate, which was organized by Spectrum News. They sparred on climate change and whether they believed people have anything to do with it.

“While I do agree that the earth is warming, I do not necessarily buy in to the fact that we as humans are creating the issues,” Harris said.

“Climate change is real, and it's not just real, it’s a moral imperative to deal with it,” McCready said.

The two men again avoided specifics on some issues, including how to address the mounting national debt. McCready criticized last year’s Republican tax reform law as not helping middle class Americans. Harris called for cutting federal spending.

Throughout the debate, Harris repeatedly stood behind the president, including on the topic of immigration. “I’m saying we must build the wall,” he said.

McCready instead pushed for relying on technology employed by the military, and insisted that there needs to be comprehensive immigration reform.

On the question of House leadership, McCready said he would not support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker if the Democrats win back control.

“I will look and see who else emerges as a potentially leader of the congress, and I’ll be voting for a new leader,” McCready said.

There was one issue where the two candidates did appear to have some degree of agreement. Both expressed openness to the idea of term limits for members of Congress.

Polls have the race as essentially a dead heat, with alternating polls giving either McCready or Harris the upper hand.

“Both candidates realize this is a real fight on their hands, this is a competitive race,” said Dr. Michael Bitzer, a professor at Catawba College.

Early voting is already underway across North Carolina. Election Day itself is now less than three weeks away, slated for Tuesday, November 6.


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