Mark Harris, a former Southern Baptist pastor and past president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, won Tuesday’s primary race for a U.S. House of Representatives seat from a Republican incumbent who narrowly beat him two years ago.
Harris, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., defeated Rep. Robert Pittenger in what pundits called a race between the establishment Republican Party and the more conservative base supporting President Donald Trump.
As president of the 4,300-church statewide affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention between 2011 and 2013, Harris mobilized churches in North Carolina to support a 2012 ballot initiative defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The amendment to the state constitution passed overwhelmingly, but a federal appeals court determined it to be unconstitutional.
In 2006 Harris chaired a committee that prompted the North Carolina Baptist convention to bar from membership churches “which knowingly act to affirm, approve, endorse, promote, support or bless homosexual behavior.”
He was on the committee that drafted a Southern Baptist Convention resolution in 2016 voicing “solidarity with those whose jobs, professions, businesses, ministries, schools, and personal freedoms are threatened because their consciences will not allow them to recognize, promote, or participate in activities associated with unbiblical marriage.”
Harris, a North Carolina native who graduated from college in 1987, planned to attend law school until a call to ministry led him to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned both a master of divinity and doctor of ministry degree.
He led the 3,000-member First Baptist Church of Charlotte from 2005 until last June, when he stepped down to weigh another run for Congress. Harris ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2014 and lost the 2016 Republican primary for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District by 134 votes.
“There continues to be a tremendous need for voices that are going to stand on righteousness, that recognize where we are moving as a nation,” Harris told Baptist Press in 2017. “The culture seems to become more and more infected with a liberal point of view.”
Harris served on Southeastern Seminary’s board of trustees from 1999 until 2009 and was chairman from 2005 to 2007. He also served on the board of the North Carolina Baptist newspaper Biblical Recorder from 2006 until 2010.
Harris backed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and then Sen. Ted Cruz in the GOP presidential primary in 2016. He attended the convention as a Cruz delegate but campaigned for Trump in the general election.
Both Harris and Pittenger ran campaign ads promoting themselves as the Trump candidate. Harris cast the primary as a battle for “the heart and soul of the Republican Party” and labeled his opponent part of the Washington “swamp.”
Endorsed by the Tea Party Patriots Citizen Fund, the Family Research Council and WallBuilders President David Barton, Harris received an A rating from the National Rifle Association
“The current outcry for additional legislation limiting gun ownership is a misguided attempt to reduce gun violence,” his campaign website says. “History has proven that strict gun laws do not reduce illegal use of firearms and opens the door for tyranny.”
He supports the nomination of Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, the president’s border wall and repeal of Obamacare.
He also wants to safeguard the country from “radical factions of Muslims” he says are targeting the United States for terrorism.
“Our country should continue its unwavering support for the nation of Israel, and should absolutely continue to be pro-active in our defense against radical Muslims that would seek to cause us harm,” his website says.