NC Board of Elections calls for a new 9th District Race; Harris steps down from consideration

On Thursday, February 21st the NC Board of Elections, composed of both Republicans and Democrats, voted unanimously for a new election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District (of which Weddington and the entirety of Union County fall under). The decision comes after a heated four-day hearing in Raleigh, culminating in Mark Harris, the Republican candidate whose campaign the investigation surrounded, calling for a new race.

The accusations began after the previous Board of Elections (which was declared unconstitutional by a judge in a ruling unrelated to the 9th district decision) refused to declare Mark Harris as the 9th district’s new representative with a 905-vote-lead over McCready. The former board member who called for the new election pointed to the unusually high number of absentee ballots requested and turned-in by Bladen County, another county within the 9th district. A probe was opened soon after into the specifics of the election tampering, highlighting one independent contractor from the Red Dome Group, Leslie McCrae Dowless. More details on Dowless and the events the previous boards refusal to certify Harris as the 9th districts winner can be found in a previous Weddington Witness article here (

When the new 116th Congress was sworn in on January 3rd, a representative for North Carolina’s 9th district was not present. Soon after the new Board of Election formed on January 31st, the week of February 18th was set for the board to make an official decision on the 9th district, meaning either the confirmation and immediate swearing in of Harris as the 9th districts official representative, or a new election cycle.

Leading up to the hearings 142 interviews were conducted and relevant documents, including financial records, were collected; board chair Kim Strach eventually declared that “A coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme operated [during the election]” at the beginning of the hearings. Though the hearing lasted four days and contained several notable points and bombshells, highlights that lead to the eventual decision include Dowless employee Lisa Britt stating that she collected ballots and signed ballots as a “witness” (though she also stated she thought that Mark Harris was not aware of the operation), and voter Kimberly Sue Robinson testifying that she handed a blank ballot to two women working for Dowless. Dowless, the center of the investigation, refused to testify unless immunity was granted. The board refused to grant immunity, and Dowless has since been arrested and faces charges.

The bombshell of the hearing, however, was Harris’s son John Harris, an assistant U.S. attorney from the Eastern District of North Carolina, testifying that he had warned his father of red flags in relation to Dowless long before the election. John Harris, in an email acquired as part of the investigation, sent his father the law making the collection of absentee ballots a felony and expressed his concern in his hiring of Dowless, stating that “The key thing I [John Harris] am fairly certain of they do that is illegal is they collect the completed absentee ballots and mail them all at once.”  John Harris went on to state that he warned his father numerous times after this that hiring Dowless was a dangerous and risky decision, going on to state that “I certainly have no vendetta against them, no family scores to settle.”

The emotional testimony by his son made Harris visibly shaken-up, leading to his calling for a new election the next day. The board subsequently voted 9-0 for a new election. The following Tuesday Harris removed his name from consideration as the Republican candidate, citing health concerns: “After consulting with my physicians, there are several things that my health situation requires as a result of the extremely serious condition that I faced in mid-January.” Harris was hospitalized in January for an infection, and a surgery has been scheduled, according to Harris, at the end of March. In his statement making the announced, Harris endorsed Stony Rushing, a Union County Commissioner, to take his place as the Republican candidate. Other potential Republican candidates are dropping hits at potentially filing before the March 15th deadline, though former governor Pat McCrory and former 9th district representative Robert Pittenger have entirely removed their names from consideration.

Democrat Dan McCready, however, has been fundraising since he withdrew his concession in late November, officially announcing his newfound candidacy just a day after the new election was announced. Thus far, no other Democrats have announced their candidacy.

The state board announced on March 5th that a new primary would be held on May 14th, and the general election would be held on September 10th if no runoff is necessary; a “runoff” between the two candidates with the highest percentage of votes is required in North Carolina if no candidate in a primary gets 30% of the vote. If a runoff is necessary the general election, will be held on November 5th.