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Mark Harris Asks If Elections Board Had 'Sinister' Motive

Mark Harris for Congress
Republican Mark Harris questioned Friday whether the NC Board of Elections had "sinister" motives in not certifying his race against Democrat Dan McCready.

The 9th Congressional District race has been in limbo for a month, with no winner between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready.

Starting Thursday night, the race was jumbled even further.

A three-judge panel criticized the N.C. Board of Elections decision to postpone a hearing in the case from Dec. 21 to Jan. 11 – and ordered the board to dissolve by noon Friday. Those judges had previously said the current makeup of the board is unconstitutional and said Jan. 11 is too late to declare a winner in the race.

Harris seized upon that news Friday morning, telling WBT radio that he should be immediately certified as the winner in the 9th District. He and state Republicans said the Harris campaign might file a lawsuit for him to be declared the winner.

“There has to be relief found, whether that’s through the state court, the federal court or wherever," Harris said in the interview. "Something is going to have to give here.”

In the same interview, Harris questioned why the elections board waited until the Nov. 6 election to publicly question absentee mail voting in Bladen County. He also said federal prosecutors should have done more to prevent possible absentee mail fraud.

Harris was referring to an elections board investigation from the November 2016 election, which was made public in late December.

Investigators found that Bladen County political operative McCrae Dowless may have illegally harvested absentee mail ballots during that election, and the elections board referred the case to the U.S. attorney.

Dowless didn't work for Harris in 2016. But Harris hired him this year, for both the May Republican primary and November general election.

He said he would not have hired Dowless had he known about the investigation. He questioned whether the elections board held onto the information to help McCready, which he said would be "sinister."

“Did they decide they would sit on this and they would wait and they would see that somehow if $11 million and Dan McCready couldn’t beat Mark Harris that this would be an insurance policy they would play to get a do-over?" Harris said in the radio interview.

The elections board - which has now been dissolved - had four Democrats, four Republicans and one unaffiliated member.

Harris declined an interview request from WFAE.

An attorney for Harris sent the elections board a letter Friday morning asking that Harris be named the winner.

In its last hours Friday morning, the elections board declined to do that.

The former chair of the board of elections – Democrat Joshua Malcolm – sent Harris’ attorney a letter saying the board would not call an emergency meeting, and noted the Harris campaign declined investigators attempts to interview him.

Malcolm also wrote that the Harris campaign has not fully responded to a subpoena, producing only 398 pages out of an estimated 140,000 documents.

The North Carolina Democratic Party Friday said Republicans are “actively obstructing an investigation, all to steal the election.”

Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said he will create a five-member elections board to act as a bridge until the newly created board convenes Jan. 31. That would presumably let the elections board hold its Jan. 11 hearing, as planned.

But Republicans are already questioning whether that’s legal. They have also said they won't serve on the temporary board.

“I believe it’s very questionable," said Charlotte Republican State Sen. Dan Bishop of Charlotte. “So the governor is suggesting by virtue of the court’s order invalidating the law that was passed in 2016-2017 that the old law is revived. And there is very little authority on the point.”

The Washington Post reported Friday that incoming U.S. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said that Democrats next week will not seat Harris when the new Congress is sworn in Jan. 2.

“Given the now well-documented election fraud that took place in NC-09, Democrats would object to any attempt by [Mark] Harris to be seated on January 3,” Hoyer said. “In this instance, the integrity of our democratic process outweighs concerns about the seat being vacant at the start of the new Congress.”


Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.