Friday, 07 December 2018 19:19

Harris supports new election pending 9th District investigation

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ROCKINGHAM — Mark Harris says he was unaware of any wrongdoing and is cooperating with an investigation that’s holding up his certification as the next representative for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.

Harris broke his week-long silence in a video statement Friday afternoon.

“ campaign and I are cooperating fully with the State Board of Elections investigation and we will continue to do so,” he said. “I trust the process that’s underway just as I’ve always trusted the decisions of the voters.”

Harris went on to say that he trusts the investigation will be “full and complete, examining any alleged irregularities that could have benefited either party” in the recent election or any other past election cycles.

The State Board of Elections and Ethics last week refused to certify Harris’ victory over Democratic challenger Dan McCready and Libertarian Jeff Scott after board member Joshua Malcolm brought up allegations of voter fraud in Bladen County — one of the two counties in the district where Harris had a majority of the votes. The other was Union County.

The district also includes Richmond, Scotland, Robeson (where Malcolm is from), Anson, and parts of Mecklenburg and Cumberland counties, all of which went for McCready.

The race was by far the closest congressional contest in the state, with only 905 votes separating Harris and McCready. Scott only received 1.8 percent of the vote.

Malcolm was appointed as chairman of the state board on Monday following the resignation of Andy Penry.

The controversy swirls around Leslie McRae Dowless, a convicted felon and political operative who was paid by Harris’ chief campaign strategist “for possible illegal get-out-the-vote” efforts, according to the Carolina Journal.

The New York Times reports that Harris still owes 34,310 to the Red Dome Group for “reimbursement payment for Bladen absentee, early voting poll workers; reimbursement door to door,” according to filing with the Federal Elections Commission.

Dowless, who was hired by Red Dome, is accused of collecting absentee ballots “in apparent violation of state law” to tip the election in Harris’ favor, the Times reports.

The League of Women Voters of North Carolina released a statement Friday morning supporting the board’s decision to delay certifying the election results.

“Elections that are both fair and represent the will of all voters are essential to retaining our state’s democratic process,” said League President Janet Hoy. “The state has the responsibility to ensure the integrity of our elections. (We call) upon state officials to complete a thorough investigation to ensure voter confidence in our elections.”

Three Republican state senators have also called for a bipartisan task force to investigate voting irregularities, which the Carolina Journal reports “have been an open secret in Bladen County for most of this decade.”

 Although he conceded to Harris on Nov. 7, McCready withdrew that concession in a video posted to Twitter on Thursday.

“The integrity of our electoral process is the heart of our democracy and we must protect it,” Harris continued in his video. “And although I was unaware of any wrongdoing, that will not prevent me from cooperating with this investigation.

The former Baptist pastor said he hopes the investigation will lead to his certification.

Multiple media outlets report Harris has already spent time in Washington, D.C. preparing to take Robert Pittenger’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Harris defeated the incumbent in the May Republican primary.

The 116th Congress is scheduled to go into session on Jan. 3.

“However, if this investigation finds proof of illegal activity on either side to such a level that it could change the outcome of the election, then I would wholeheartedly support a new election to ensure all voters have confidence in the results,” Harris said. “As we move toward resolution, I look forward to participating in a transparent, factual and fair process.”