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Pittenger Didn’t Claim Election Fraud In Primary, Saying 'Nobody Likes A Whining Sore Loser’

Saemia / Wikimedia Commons

As of Thursday, after six years, Robert Pittenger no longer represents North Carolina's 9th Congressional District. It's still unclear who the district's new representative will be, as the investigation into potential absentee ballot fraud continues. But Pittenger says there's no chance it'll be him.

Pittenger lost to Mark Harris in the Republican primary by only 828 votes and, in unofficial tallies, Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes. If a new election is ordered, it would include a primary election and Pittenger says he would not run.

He joined Morning Edition’s Lisa Worf.

Lisa Worf: So, Mr. Pittenger, why wouldn't you run?

Robert Pittenger: Well, I think I have definitely been honored to serve the 9th district. I've really enjoyed my service. I will say to you that clearly, we're in a mess right now with the 9th District. But I do know that what I want to do is focus on the security forums that I've been hosting the last five to six years. Instead of, frankly, campaigning and fundraising for the next nearly two years.

Worf: You talk about campaigning. You've had some tough campaigns in the past and looking back to the 2018 primary, the absentee ballot results in Bladen County were even more lopsided in the primary. Harris got 96 percent of those votes. Do you feel you were a victim of election fraud?

Pittenger: Well, I met with it with a gentleman Mr. Harris hired. I spent maybe three or four minutes with him and determined quickly I didn't want to have anything to do it.

Worf: What made you come to that determination?

Pittenger: Well, anytime somebody is sitting down with you, they will say, “Pay me and I'll go get you some votes.” [It] becomes very clear that's not a direction I want to be in.

So, our meeting ended pretty abruptly and he found someone else to go help. So that was in 2016. Then he helped another candidate and that other candidate did not run this time. Mark Harris then hired him.

Worf: But do you feel like you were a victim of election fraud in that primary?

Pittenger: Well, I'm going to let the people who are dealing with this issue right now — the various authorities — determine that. I don't want to speculate on what could have happened. And I think the facts speak for themselves. Let's let that run its course and we'll make that determination.

Worf: Well, you certainly had suspicions of impropriety as it sounds like. Did you have reports of potential fraud in Bladen County following the 2018 primary?

Pittenger: We were aware of it in 2016. I mean I was told then that there’s a bad guy out there who delivered votes, but who helped win elections. And this guy came to meet with me for some time [and] as I said, I only gave him a few minutes.

Yeah. I think most folks in Bladen County — politically oriented [people] and elected officials — are very much aware of Mr. [McCrae] Dowless and what his interest was [and] what his actions were.

At the end of the 2018 election primary, we did report him and what he was doing to the elections board as well as to the Republican Party.

Worf: What kind of response did you get?

Pittenger: We left it with them. You know [the response] was kind of, “We'll look into it.”

Worf: Why didn't you go public with it?

Pittenger: Well, again, I went to the people who I thought could do something about it. And, you know, you can sound like a sore loser. I went to the appropriate authorities and shared my concerns.

And nobody likes a whining sore loser that starts blaming somebody else. And that's usually the perception out there, that you start claiming fraud, you know?... You know, people don't pay a lot of attention to it. So, the best thing to do is get the right folks who have the authority to make that determination. I'm glad they finally did start looking into it.

I think this has been going on for probably a decade out there. And he was not, you know, selective. I mean he didn't just align himself the Republican Party. He worked for both sides. It didn't matter. He was a political prostitute.

Worf: Do you think your primary election should have been certified in 2018?

Pittenger: Well, we have to go back and review all that. I think there are certainly reasons to question it. But again, I'd like for the people who are reviewing that now that don't understand that the Board of Elections was heavy into it. I was told they'd already interviewed 100 people. Then they got disbanded by a three-judge panel. I can't figure that out. All that did was prolong the process. So I don't know where it's right now. I don't really follow it that closely.

Worf: Well, what do you think should happen now about the 9th Congressional District race?

Pittenger: Well, I think they need to complete the review and complete the investigation. As I said, I have no clue why a three-judge panel would disband what they've done. Now, somebody's got to start all over again. And that's not what happens, I'm told, until the end of the month when the new board is identified. This could go on for months.

Worf: But based on what you know now, what do you think should happen?

Pittenger: Well again, I don't make a subjective analysis. I don't believe in trial by media. I don’t believe in trial by people's subjective thinking. I think you need to gather the facts. Let's get the facts together and assess the facts and then come to a determination.

Worf: And so it sounds like you're saying that Mark Harris should not be seated right away until there is an investigation.

Pittenger: Well, I think clearly there needs to be a complete investigation. I think any thoughtful person would agree to that. To not do that and to come back later on if there is something that becomes more conclusive — let's just get to the bottom of it. The parties that have been involved in this need to come out and say, “Here's what we've learned.”

And remember Sergeant Friday?... I’m talking about [the show] “Dragnet,” the famous line… It's just the facts ma'am. Just the facts. That’s all I want. Show us the facts. Then we can make a good conclusion. 

Lisa Worf traded the Midwest for Charlotte in 2006 to take a job at WFAE. She worked with public TV in Detroit and taught English in Austria before making her way to radio. Lisa graduated from University of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in English.