Friday, 17 July 2020 12:55

Harris cleared in 9th Congressional District election probe

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RALEIGH — Former U.S. House candidate Mark Harris has been cleared in a ballot-harvesting case that led to a special election in the 9th Congressional District.

Multiple media outlets reported earlier this week that Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said her office found no “evidence which would support a criminal case against Dr. Harris,” following a yearlong investigation by state and federal agencies.

“Nearly 600 days ago I told the voters of the 9th district that my campaign would fully cooperate with investigators in a process that would ultimately reveal insufficient evidence to overturn an election,” said Harris in a statement, according to the North State Journal.

“I am personally grateful for the detailed investigation by the Wake County District Attorney and the cooperating federal and state agencies to finally restore my reputation,” Harris continued. “I trust the investigators will continue their work so North Carolina voters can be assured that their vote counts in a system that follows the rule of law.”

Harris, citing health concerns, dropped out of the race in February 2019, after the seat had been vacant for nearly two months.

The Charlotte pastor, earlier in 2018, defeated incumbent Robert Pittenger in the Republican Primary.

The Harris campaign hired Leslie McRae Dowless for get-out-the-vote efforts.

After Election Day, only 905 votes separated Harris from Democractic challenger Dan McCready. But the state board failed to certify those votes in late November due to claims of voting irregularities in Bladen County.

Bladen was only one of two counties in the district that voted overwhelmingly for Harris; the other was Union. The district also includes Richmond, Anson, Scotland, Robeson and parts of Mecklenburg and Cumberland.

McCready initially conceded the race to Harris on Nov. 7, but withdrew on Dec. 6.

Dowless and several associates were arrested and charged.

After a new election was ordered and Harris dropped out, 10 Republicans filed to run in the new primary, including several who didn’t live in the district.

Then-state Sen. Dan Bishop won the primary and squared off against McCready, Libertarian Jeff Scott and Green Party candidate Allen Smith.

Bishop won the special election in September of 2019, after the seat had been vacant for nine months.