Fact-checking the congressional race between Dan McCready and Mark Harris

Congressional District candidates Dan McCready and Mark Harris take part in a WBTV and Charlotte Observer debate on Wednesday, October 10, 2018. (courtesy of the Charlotte Observer)
Congressional District candidates Dan McCready and Mark Harris take part in a WBTV and Charlotte Observer debate on Wednesday, October 10, 2018. (courtesy of the Charlotte Observer)

The campaign for the 9th Congressional District shouldn’t be this close.

Republicans have held the seat since 1963. In the last election, President Donald Trump won the district by 12 points and incumbent Robert Pittenger won by 16.

But Pittenger got knocked out in the primary by Republican Mark Harris, a former pastor, and now his race against Democrat Dan McCready is rated a toss-up. Even Trump put all hands on deck with a last-minute rally in Charlotte to drum up support for Harris.

The district stretches from south Charlotte east to include Lumberton and up the Interstate 95 corridor to Fayetteville.

We’ve fact-checked Harris’s stance on the Department of Education, whether McCready wants to take away your tax cut, if Harris would really cut Medicare and Social Security, and whether McCready wants to impeach President Trump.

Harris on Nancy Pelosi and tax cuts

In a September ad, Harris said McCready, a businessman and former Marine, "took money from the Pelosi crowd," is "with them" in their agenda and "wants to repeal your tax cut."  

McCready has said he would not vote to make Rep. Nancy Pelosi House Democratic leader or House speaker, but he has received financial support from several people and groups linked to her, including the House Majority PAC, the Democratic Congressional Committee and multiple Democratic leadership PACs.

At the same time, McCready has also received donations from other Democrats who have said they want Pelosi to take a backseat to new party leadership.  

In addition, his website indicates that while he does support much of the liberal agenda, he has indicated that he does not want to get rid of tax cuts, especially for the middle class.

We rated this claim Half True because while McCready holds many liberal beliefs, there is no clear indication that he is totally in line with the "Pelosi crowd."

The Congressional Leadership Fund on McCready and tax cuts

An ad paid for by the conservative Congressional Leadership Fund said McCready "did admit he opposes middle class tax cuts."

McCready, however, has said multiple times — including on Facebook, during an Oct. 10 debate, and even in the very McClatchy story the ad cited as evidence — that he supports tax cuts for the middle class.

In fact, he has repeatedly said he opposed the Trump tax plan in part because it didn’t do enough for the middle class.

We rated the claim False.

McCready on Harris and the Department of Education

In debates and throughout the campaign, McCready has said Harris "has said he would abolish the Department of Education."

This is true — and Harris doesn’t deny it.

Harris first said he would like to get rid of the Department of Education during a Republican primary debate in 2014, when he was running for U.S. Senate. He restated his position during this year’s Oct. 10 debate.

We rated this one True.

FreedomWorks on McCready and tax cut savings

An ad paid for by FreedomWorks, a libertarian advocacy group, said, "Dan McCready wants to repeal tax cuts that saves (sic) you $1,300+/year."

A spokesperson for FreedomWorks said the ad’s $1,300 figure came from the conservative Heritage Foundation and the pro-business Tax Foundation, two think tanks in Washington, D.C. He said the "you" in the claim referred specifically to people in the 9th District.

Experts said the $1,300 figure is an accurate average for district residents earning yearly incomes between $50,000 and $75,000, but they noted that those with higher or lower incomes will likely receive substantially different tax cuts, ranging from a measly $156 to a whopping $24,000. 

Additionally, McCready has repeatedly indicated that while he wants to make serious changes to the Trump tax plan, he does not want to get rid of the tax cuts, especially for the middle class.

We rated this statement Mostly False because the general "you" is misleading and McCready has not said he would repeal the Trump tax cuts.

Harris on McCready’s thoughts about impeachment

After an Oct. 10 debate, Harris tweeted, "In our debate, Dan McCready doubled down on his support for Pelosi’s liberal agenda of … impeaching our president."

That’s not what happened. When the moderator asked McCready about impeaching Trump, the Democrat was noncommittal.

"I don’t deal in hypotheticals, I deal in the facts," he said. "That is a decision — or, any decision related to the Constitution — that I would treat very seriously based on the facts at the time."

Previously, both the Charlotte Observer and The New York Times noted that McCready has not taken an outright stance on impeachment.

For what it’s worth, Pelosi has also not called for Trump’s impeachment. She even voted to table two attempts at impeachment and said it’s "not a priority."

We rated this statement False because McCready has not said he would support impeachment.

McCready on Harris, Social Security and Medicare

During that same Oct. 10 debate, McCready said, "Mark Harris has said he would cut Social Security and Medicare."

The McCready campaign cited a video of a 2014 U.S. Senate primary debate, a link to an online voter guide Harris filled out for the primary and two news stories — by the Washington Post and Reuters — about how Republicans want to cut entitlement programs to pay for the Trump tax cuts.

The evidence does not prove that Harris wants to cut Medicare. But it does show that the former pastor has used the word "overhaul" to describe future government payouts, and he has also said he’s open to scaling back Social Security for people under 50.

However, Harris has consistently said his desired reforms wouldn’t affect people who are in the program or stand to benefit from it in the next decade or so.

We rated this claim Half True because Harris has not said he would like to cut Medicare, but he has indicated repeatedly that he would be open to significantly changing Social Security.

This story was produced by the North Carolina Fact-Checking Project, a partnership of McClatchy Carolinas, the Duke University Reporters’ Lab and PolitiFact. The NC Local News Lab Fund and the International Center for Journalists provide support for the project, which shares fact-checks with newsrooms statewide.