CHARLOTTE – As several dozen supporters cheered and waved campaign signs Feb. 22, Congressman Robert Pittenger made his way to Mecklenburg County Board of Elections officials to formally launch his re-election bid for the 9th District Congressional seat in the upcoming Republican Primary.
Pittenger’s filing was just a formality as the three-term congressman has been in full campaign mode for months and began running television advertisements back in December across the district, which spans from south Charlotte to Fayetteville.
Pittenger will face the Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte and Fayetteville area attorney Clarence Goins Jr. in the May 8 Republican Primary. Pittenger defeated Harris by 134 votes in the 2016 Republican Primary. He then defeated Democratic Party nominee Christian Cano 58 to 42 percent in the general election.
Cano is again seeking his party’s nod and Charlotte businessman and Marine Corps veteran Dan McCready is also seeking the Democratic nomination. The 9th District has not elected a Democrat to Congress in over 65 years.
After officially tossing his hat in the ring, Pittenger thanked his supporters.
“We have a message that, one, is built on a secure country, one that is built on opportunity for everyone, one that is built on life, the protection of life,” Pittenger said. “These three principles are the guiding elements that will be the message that we will bring throughout our district.”
Pittenger has been a strong supporter of President Donald Trump’s agenda and said the country is better off with Trump in the White House and Republicans controlling both houses of Congress.
“I think we have seen a real turnaround in this country,” Pittenger said. “Who would have expected that 98 percent of the land mass taken by ISIS would already have been taken back? Who would have thought that our economy is already turning around the way it is? Hundreds of millions of dollars have been redeployed and reinvested in this country. 401ks are up, wages are up. It is remarkable. We are going to see even more good things happen.”
The morning of Pittenger’s filing, Trump tweeted Congress should look at raising the minimum age to buy some rifles from 18- to 21-years-olds and that bump stocks should be banned. Pittenger said Congress will take a hard look at finding a solution to gun violence but he added that any proposed measures should not violate the constitutional rights of citizens.
“I think we need to look at various issues out there and how we can address this severe problem,” Pittenger said. “This is a major concern in our country, and frankly in our culture. We have a culture today of violence. It is encouraged and exacerbated in many ways by the media, by games and by what we see on TV and in the movies. We have a country that frankly no longer honors the principles on which this country started.
“We will look at the various options out there. They need to be evaluated and studied by Congress, and we need to get input from many people. We want to target where the solutions are and not hit surface issues.”
Pittenger said arming teachers is an issue that needs to be considered, saying protections are needed inside of schools.
“They (students) should feel safe and when I went to school it was a safe place,” Pittenger said. “When I went to school we said the Pledge of Allegiance and we honored God by giving a prayer.
“Maybe we need to think through some of those values.”
The race so far
Here’s a list of the people running for the 9th District U.S. Congress seat, spanning from Charlotte to Fayetteville.
• Democrats: Dan McCready and Christian Cano.
• Libertarian: Jeff Scott.
• Republicans: Clarence Goins Jr., Mark Harris and Robert Pittenger.