UPDATE: On Thursday, the North Carolina State Board of Election ordered a new election in the Ninth Congressional District. The vote was unanimous. The State Board of Elections did not set a date for the new contest at Thursday’s meeting. Mr. Harris has not decided whether he will run again.
Republican candidate Mark Harris is calling for a new election in the NC09 congressional race that he narrowly won last November. But, the North Carolina State Board of Elections refused to certify the election after allegations of ballot fraud emerged late last year.
Citing new evidence that a contractor working for his campaign had engaged in a fraudulent absentee ballot harvesting operation, Mr. Harris told a NC State Board of Elections hearing on Thursday that “a new election should be called.”
This was a surprising reversal. Previously, Mr. Harris had argued that the Board should certify him as the winner.
Mr. Harris’ call for a new election capped a dramatic week of hearings held by the state board of elections. A decision could come as soon as Thursday about whether to certify the race or hold a new election.
John Harris’ Warnings
In an emotional statement at a North Carolina State Board of Elections hearing on Wednesday, Mr. Harris’ son, John Harris, said that he had warned his father about hiring Leslie McCrae Dowless, the independent contractor at the center of the fraud allegations.
“I thought what he was doing was illegal. And I was right.”
“I thought what he was doing was illegal,” John Harris told the State Board of Elections. “And I was right.”
John Harris’ testimony and emails he provided to the Board of Elections document his dogged efforts to warn his father that Mr. Dowess’ methods were at the very least shady, if not illegal.
“I raised red flags at the time the decision was made to hire Mr. Dowless,” John Harris said Wednesday. But, he said, his father brushed aside his concerns.
“I had no reason to believe that my father actually knew, or my mother or any other associate with the campaign had any knowledge,” John Harris told the board as his father watched on choking back tears. “I think Dowless told them he wasn’t doing any of this, and they believed him.”
What Happens Next
Mr. Harris narrowly defeated his Democratic rival, Dan McCready, by a scant 905 votes in North Carolina’s Ninth District Congressional race. But, it now seems increasingly likely that the Board will order a new election. Even if they were to certify the election, there’s little chance the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives will seat Mr. Harris. One way or another, voters in NC09 will have to return to the polls.
The big question is whether a new election will be held in the primary as well. Republicans fear that Mr. Harris has been irreparably tarnished by the scandal and would almost certainly lose a head-to-head rematch with Mr. McCready. A new primary would give Republicans a chance to put a new GOP candidate on the ballot with a better shot at winning.