North Carolina will be the site of the first closely-watched race after the 2018 midterms — but it probably won’t be the special election in the 3rd congressional district. The contest to fill the seat of the late Rep. Walter Jones, the 12-term Republican who died in February, will likely be overshadowed by the drama that’s gone on to its west. There, the outcome 9th district race was in limbo for months, marred by election fraud allegations and absentee ballot tampering, casting so much doubt in the outcome of the GOP candidate’s slim 905-vote margin of victory that state officials ordered a new election. Both districts are typically reliably Republican, but the 3rd district, which takes in the far eastern part of the state along the coast, is even redder. President Trump won this district by 24 points in 2016, compared to his 11 point margin of victory in the 9th.

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Democrats had a vast overperformance in special elections leading up to 2018, which foreshadowed their eventual 40 seat gain on Election Night. Their average nominee in specials outperformed

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