The Rev. Mark Harris has thrown in the towel on his hopes of going to Congress. He called for a new election in the 9th U.S. Congressional District as evidence mounted of election fraud in Bladen County during the 2018 election.
The State Board of Elections agreed, voting unanimously to hold a new election in the 9th Congressional District, along with a Bladen County Commission seat and Soil and Water Conservation District seat.
“It certainly was a tainted election,” elections board Chairman Bob Cordle said.
“This did not help the reputation of North Carolina,” said board member David Black.
In a tweet posted just after 4 p.m., the elections board stated it would set the date for the new election at a separate hearing.
Republican Harris testified for a little over two hours in the morning but after a lengthy break, he called an abrupt halt to his participation in the State Board of Elections evidentiary hearing to read a brief statement at 2:30 when the proceeding resumed.
“Through the testimony I’ve listened to over the past three days I believe a new election should be called,” Harris said to scattered gasps in the hearing room.
“It’s become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the 9th District seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.” Harris said. “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.”
Harris said he went to the hospital Jan. 18 after battling what he thought was bronchitis. He developed a severe infection that became septic, and suffered two strokes from which he is still recovering.
“Though I thought I was ready to undergo the rigors of this hearing and am getting stronger, I clearly am not, and I struggled this morning with both recall and confusion,” Harris said.
In his closing statement Harris attorney David Freedman said Harris was unaware of the election abuses committed by his political operative McCrae Dowless. Testimony and evidence presented in the four-day hearing implicated Dowless in potential fraud. A parallel criminal investigation is ongoing.
It was a stunning turn of events. Harris already had been to Washington for freshman orientation, maintained his innocence, and unsuccessfully attempted to get a court to certify him as the winner with 905 votes over Democrat Dan McCready when the State Board of Elections did not.