Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, who faces a Baptist minister in next year’s primary, is airing a new TV ad urging people to put “Christ back in Christmas.” “I’ve dedicated my life to sharing God’s love through Jesus Christ,” Pittenger says, standing in front of a Christmas tree and fireplace. “Let’s end political correctness and put the true meaning of Christ back in Christmas.” Pittenger faces a primary rematch with Rev. Mark Harris, former pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church. He beat Harris by 134 votes in last year’s 9th District GOP primary. While Pittenger has invoked religion in campaigns before, it’s unusual for any candidate to make such a direct religious appeal. Never miss a local story. Sign up today for a free 30 day free trial of unlimited digital access. SUBSCRIBE NOW But in 2016, Harris tapped his evangelical base in winning the support of many primary voters. He won two of the district’s eight counties and finished second to a third candidate, Todd Johnson, in five others. Pittenger won the primary thanks to his support in Mecklenburg County. In last year’s contest, Pittenger aired an ad on WBT-AM and on Christian radio stations touting his “deep Christian faith” and his record as “a conservative standing up for pro-family values.” Pittenger’s latest ad comes a month before Christmas and six months before the May primary. “It says he knows he’s got his work cut out for him, and he learned his lesson from last cycle’s race,” said David Wasserman, an analyst with the Washington-based Cook Political Report. Harris spokesman Andy Yates said don’t expect Harris, a former president of the North Carolina Baptist Convention, to run ads emphasizing his faith. As head of the Baptist group, Harris was a high-profile leader in the 2012 campaign to pass a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. This month former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, himself a former Baptist minister, came to Charlotte to campaign for Harris. “I don’t think we’ll ever have to run a TV ad to say ‘Mark Harris is a Christian’ or to remind people that he believes Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ,” Yates said. Rabbi Yossi Groner