Last week, the first debate between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready took place in the WBTV studios, in front of only moderators and cameramen. It was subdued, even polite.
But Wednesday night’s Spectrum News debate at McGlohon Theater in uptown Charlotte was before an audience that was probably 70 percent McCready fans. For Harris, it was a road game.
McCready supporters in the audience often cheered loudly for the Democratic candidate, and hissed and groaned when Harris spoke.
At one point during the debate, as he was making a point about building a border wall, the crowd booed.
Harris stopped what he saying, and said it seemed to him that the crowd had cues as to when to cheer and boo.
The Republican candidate was also upset about a recent McCready advertisement that launched this week.
That ad criticized Harris for sermons he made as pastor at First Baptist Church in Charlotte. One sermon questioned whether women could work outside the home without sacrificing their roles as mothers and wives.
“The reality is that they took a sermon that I preached on Mother’s Day 2013 and took things out of context," Harris said. "In that sermon, let me be clear what I said - that we are fortunate to live in a time that women can be CEO of a company, they can be chairmen of the board, they belong in the classroom, the operating room. It is important to also understand ... that when God blesses that woman with a child, her motherly instincts kick in. That doesn’t mean that her career ends nor did I suggest that. But I simply made it clear that her motherly instincts kick in and everything she does from that point forward is in the best interest of the child.”
The sermons were not discussed in last week’s debate. McCready criticized Harris, and said women should "have a seat at the table."
"Men and women are equally valuable and capable," McCready said. "It’s past time that women have a seat at the table. He called women servant lovers, and he questioned whether women should have careers, suggesting that women should be home cooking, sewing buttons, and respond to their husbands.”
Minutes after that exchange, the two men had their sharpest words.
McCready was upset about ads Harris and Republican groups have run against him.
“So I’m sorry that I have to deal with an opponent who is lying, and whose friends are levying dark and nasty attacks," McCready said.
Harris returned to this week’s ad that criticized him for the 2013 sermons.
“This race took a very dark turn when Mr. McCready began to run ads that accused me of saying things in messages, and pulling things out of context, and using those things to try and smear me," Harris said.
According to campaign finance reports released this week, McCready, a former Marine and small business owner, has raised $4.3 million. That includes nearly $1 million from political action committees.
Harris, a former pastor at Charlotte's First Baptist Church, has raised $1.6 million so far. That includes just under $180,000 from PACs.
That doesn’t include hundreds of thousands of dollars from outside groups trying to influence the race.
The 9th District stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville. Democrats are targeting this race as they seek to win the House of Representatives, while Republicans see it as key to maintaining control. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats.
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