A poll released last week by JMC Analytical shows that the September special election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District between Democrat Dan McCready and Republican State Senator Dan Bishop is a statistical tie.
The poll of 350 likely voters, conducted between May 21 and May 24, shows Bishop leads McCready by four points, 46 percent to 42 percent, which is within the poll’s 5.2 percent margin of error.
When asked who they voted for in the November 2018 general election between McCready and the Republican nominee, Dr. Mark Harris, 41 percent of respondents said McCready, and 40 percent said Harris.
In that controversial election, Harris won on election day by a mere 905 votes, but the results of the election were never certified by the North Carolina State Board of Elections, due to allegations of voter fraud. After a convoluted process and numerous hearings, that board called for the new special election and Harris announced he would not be a candidate.
The 9th Congressional District of North Carolina has been without representation in Congress since the 116th Congress convened in Washington, D.C. on January 3 of this year, a situation that will be resolved after the North Carolina State Board of Elections certifies the results of the September 10 special election between McCready, Bishop, and two other minor party candidates.
The race between McCready and Bishop is considered a bellwether indicator of what may be ahead in the already tumultuous 2020 Presidential and Congressional elections, particularly since it is in the battleground state of North Carolina, a state that President Trump won by more more than three points, 50.5 percent to 46.7 percent, in 2016.
President Trump remains very popular in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. According to the JMC Poll results, 55 percent of respondents approve of President Trump’s job performance, while only 39 percent disapprove. In contrast, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, fares significantly lower than the president, with only 41 percent of poll respondents approving of his job performance, with 39 percent disapproving.
Democrat McCready and Republican Bishop offer voters a clear choice.
The 35-year-old McCready fits the profile of a number of successful Congressional candidates recruited by the Democrats in 2018.
McCready is a military veteran who served in Iraq as a Marine Corps officer in 2007 and 2008. A graduate of Harvard Business School, McCready briefly worked as a consultant for McKinsey, the consulting firm of choice for globalist Fortune 500 companies, before striking out on his own with a fellow former Marine and Harvard Business School graduate, Rye Barcott, to raise $80 million for an investment fund, Double Time Capital, which focuses on the solar energy industry.
That fund’s strategy and investments, however, has raised a number of vulnerabilities that are likely to be a theme of McCready’s opponent in the special election.
First, the firm’s investment pitch relies heavily on both state and federal tax incentives to support the solar industry, a financial benefit that leaves McCready open to charges that he is benefiting from insider crony capitalism.
Fortune described Double Time Capital’s investment strategy in this 2017 article, saying:
Launched in 2013, Double Time Capital invests in utility-scale solar farms in North Carolina. In just over three years, the firm has raised seven funds, totaling $80 million, from investors including Prudential Financial, Burt’s Bees, former Bank of America chief executive Hugh McColl, Jr., and former Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, who now advises the company. Altogether, Double Time has financed 36 solar energy projects, which collectively produce roughly 10% of North Carolina’s solar power and power around 30,000 homes in the state.
Strictly speaking, Double Time is not a venture capital firm. It typically invests in projects that are in the late stages of construction, but may not produce a profit for several more years. However, solar farms typically take advantage of various state and federal tax credits to help with building costs. (North Carolina, for example, offered a 35% tax rebate for renewable energy projects until 2016. It has not been offered since, but Barcott says that does not affect its projects currently under way.) As a result, says Ethan Zindler, head of policy analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, such funds typically need fairly sophisticated investors, who can make use of the tax credit while they wait for the solar farms to start making money. Investors are eventually rewarded because state utilities are required by law to purchase a percentage of their power from independent energy producers, including solar farms, usually through fixed multi-year contracts.
Second, one of Double Time Capital’s portfolio companies, Strata Solar, uses the controversial Chinese electronics and communications firm Huawei as a vendor. The details of that relationship are also likely to be the subject of attacks on McCready during the campaign, as Fox News reported last week:
McCready is the co-founder and Managing Partner at Double Time Capital, holding reportedly between $1 and $5 million in assets from the company, according to the financial disclosure statement filed in April.
The company has heavily invested in utility-scale solar farms in North Carolina and nearly 40 projects that produce about 10 percent of the state’s solar power. Most of the investment went to Strata Solar, the State’s largest solar company, according to Charlotte Business Journal.
Yet Strata Solar has been working with Huawei, the embattled Chinese technology company, since at least 2016 despite repeated warnings that the company may pose a national security risk to the U.S.
Specifically, Huawei provides Strata Solar with string inverters.
In October 2016, Solar Power Online reported that “Leading solar PV inverter company Huawei is delighted to announce that developer and EPC firm, Strata Solar, has selected Huawei string inverters for use in several of its utility-scale power plant projects in the United States.” The report said:
Bates Marshall, Vice President and General Manager of Huawei FusionSolar North America states: “Our market-leading experience with over 22 GW shipment worldwide, along with the proven reliability of the Smart PV Solution, makes this inverter the ideal choice for utility scale developers and EPCs like Strata Solar.
“Our flagship product, the Huawei SUN2000 string inverter, delivers 98.5% weighted efficiency, as rated by the California Energy Commission (CEC). Unique in the market, the SUN2000 string inverter adopts natural cooling technology without needing to change fuses, resulting in increased reliability and lower maintenance costs.”
Markus Wilhelm, CEO of Strata Solar, said: “We are confident that the Huawei inverters will meet our strict reliability standards, while providing a cost effective solution for our string inverter requirements.”
State Senator Dan Bishop, the Republican nominee, is best known as a co-sponsor of HB2, a 2016 North Carolina law that prohibited men from using women’s restroom facilities in public buildings, among other things, as Breitbart News reported last month on what Bishop’s Republican primary victory meant for the September 10 special general election. According to Breitbart News:
It also sets up clear ideological battle lines between the GOP’s Trump-supporting Bishop, who co-sponsored the controversial 2016 Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, more commonly known as the “bathroom bill,” which required public facilities to limit the usage of restrooms by gender, and Democrat McCready, a critic of Trump’s polices as well as Bishop’s traditional values agenda. The bill was partially repealed in 2017 after heavy pressure from large corporations and national organizations, like the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which boycotted events in the Tar Heel State until the revised legislation was signed into law.
With a little more than three months until the election, both sides are gearing up for another very expensive bellwether special Congressional election, one that is likely to attract millions of dollars in donations from citizens and special interest groups around the country.
As of the end of April, McCready enjoyed a significant financial advantage, with $1.5 million in the bank compared to Bishop’s $184,000. That disparity, however, is likely to lessen as the contested Republican primary is now past, and Bishop’s team and allies turn their attention to fundraising.