Published: Fri, February 22, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Mark Harris Sought Political Operative In North Carolina Congressional Race

Mark Harris Sought Political Operative In North Carolina Congressional Race

North Carolina election officials on Thursday ordered the state to hold a new election for the 9th Congressional District after uncovering an illegal absentee ballot scheme.

The disclosure by the Harris campaign frustrated investigators, who were presented with the evidence only on Wednesday, despite a subpoena from the North Carolina State Board of Elections for the relevant documents months ago. John Harris, who happens to be an assistant federal prosecutor - testified against him this week at a hearing on the blatant ballot fraud carried out in Harris' 2018 race.

"Through the testimony I have listened to over the past three days, I believe a new election should be called".

Harris led Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes out of about 280,000 cast, in a mostly rural district that includes part of Charlotte and extends eastwards through several counties along the southern edge of North Carolina.

One of the emails in particular showed Harris' interest in hiring political operative McCrae Dowless due to his work on a 2016 Republican primary campaign. Dowless was also investigated in 2016 for his tactics, which a number of witnesses have testified included illegally collecting ballots and filling out some of those ballots. Harris also insisted: "Neither I nor any of the leadership of my campaign were aware of or condoned the improper activities that have been testified to in this hearing". He reiterated that in his testimony Thursday. He said it was hard to testify after being hospitalized for two strokes earlier in the year. "'I don't care if it's a 95 year old woman in a wheelchair, we do not take the ballots'".

Attorney Marc Elias, who is representing the McCready campaign, called on the board to do exactly that.

Harris reportedly won 61 percent of the absentee ballots in rural Bladen County - the only county in the district where mail-in ballots favored the Republican.

"On the other issue of your gracious offer to meet me in Bladen County and spend a day connecting me to the "key people" that can help me carry that part of the county in a future US House NC-9 race", Harris wrote to Warren on March 8, 2017. On Wednesday night, they turned over a previously undisclosed message in which Harris asked a local Republican for an introduction to Dowless and referred to him as "the guy whose absentee ballot project for Johnson could have put me in the US House this term".

The consultant, Leslie McCrae Dowless, is accused of illegal vote manipulation.

Harris concluded his statement and left the room.

Counsel for Harris agreed that a new election should be called, but attorney David Freedman argued that Harris did not know about any wrongdoing.

"I mean he obviously he was right in that sense of his concern that he should have had", said Harris. "I just believed he was over-reacting".

"It's become clear to me that public confidence in the 9th District has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted", Harris said. The board did not immediately set a schedule for the re-run.

The sudden twist of events came after more than three days of hearings looking into allegations of election fraud, and it marks the end of a politically charged saga over the fate of the contest, which remains the only undecided midterm congressional election in the country.

Events at Thursday's NCSBE hearing moved rapidly.

The board came to a decision after Harris testified and said a new election was needed.

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