US Rep. Robert Pittenger loses North Carolina primary

Three-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C.,  narrowly lost Tuesday to a Southern Baptist pastor in a GOP primary rematch highlighting their evangelical Christian credentials and loyalty to President Donald Trump.

He becomes the first incumbent to lose in the 2018 primary cycle.

Two years ago, the Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte's First Baptist Church lost by just 134 votes to Pittenger, a wealthy land developer. This time, Harris came out on top by a slightly wider margin, and Clarence Goins of Fayetteville finished third.

Harris, a former president of the Baptist State Convention in North Carolina, now must pivot toward a general election campaign against Iraq War veteran and Harvard graduate Dan McCready, who won Tuesday's Democratic nomination.

Pittenger also touted his evangelical credentials, speaking fondly about connections to the late Rev. Billy Graham.

But Harris assailed Pittenger's vote for a March spending bill that ended a brief government shutdown, saying Pittenger wasn't working to get spending under control and sent Trump a bill the president criticized for its largesse.

Pittenger said his voting record since getting elected in 2012 reflects a commitment to fiscal responsibility. He said he backed the spending bill because it contained Trump's military request as America faces dangers around the world.

Pittenger tried to undermine Harris' unflinching support for Trump. One Pittenger campaign ad featured a radio interview of from March 2016, when Harris was supporting U.S. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in the presidential primary, to suggest his rival wanted to stop Trump from being the nominee. At the time, Pittenger was supporting U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.