Har­ris wants McCready to tes­tify in hear­ing on 9th District election

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Local - BY ELY POR­TILLO ely­por­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com Staff writer Jim Mor­rill con­trib­uted. Ely Por­tillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPor­tillo

A hear­ing on the dis­puted 9th District race could fi­nally shed more light on the only un­de­cided con­gres­sional race in the U.S., and Repub­li­can Mark Har­ris wants his Demo­cratic op­po­nent, Dan McCready, to tes­tify.

The newly ap­pointed, five-mem­ber N.C. Board of Elec­tions is sched­uled to start the hear­ing Feb. 18 in Raleigh. The board is ex­pected to vote at the con­clu­sion of the meet­ing on whether to cer­tify the election re­sults — which showed Har­ris with a 905-vote lead over McCready — or or­der a new election.

In a let­ter to the board this week, Har­ris’ at­tor­neys named 20 peo­ple they’re re­quest­ing sub­poe­nas be is­sued for to com­pel their at­ten­dance and tes­ti­mony at the hear­ing, in­clud­ing McCready. In a pre­vi­ous let­ter to the board, McCready asked the board to sub­poena Har­ris, but only to com­pel his at­ten­dance, not tes­ti­mony.

The bit­terly fought race was thrown into dis­ar­ray in Novem­ber, when the pre­vi­ous board (which was dis­solved in an un­re­lated le­gal dis­pute) re­fused to cer­tify the re­sults in the 9th District. Al­le­ga­tions of il­le­gal ab­sen­tee bal­lothar­vest­ing by McCrae Dow­less, a Bladen County po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tive work­ing for the Har­ris cam­paign, soon sur­faced, with some vot­ers say­ing they had turned over their bal­lots to peo­ple they didn’t know.

The Har­ris cam­paign is also ask­ing the Board of Elec­tions to re­lease its in­ves­tiga­tive re­port to the pub­lic be­fore the hear­ing, be­tween Feb. 13 and 15. Briefs from both sides are due in the case by Feb. 12.

David Freedman, an at­tor­ney for the Har­ris cam­paign, said that so far they have not re­ceived any de­tails about what the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has un­cov­ered, and that they should have the chance to re­view those be­fore the hear­ing.

“From a due process per­spec­tive and a fun­da­men­tal fair­ness per­spec­tive, we should know what the in­ves­ti­ga­tion turned up,” said Freedman. “At this point there’s no spe- cific notice as to what spe­cific al­le­ga­tions there are we need to de­fend.”

A Board of Elec­tions rep­re­sen­ta­tive could not im­me­di­ately be reached to an­swer if they are con­sid­er­ing re­leas­ing the re­sults of their in­ves­tiga­tive re­port be­fore the hear­ing. The board was briefed on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion in a fourhour closed-ses­sion meet­ing Thurs­day.

McCready cam­paign spokesman Aaron Simp­son said that re­gard­less of the sub­poena re­quest, ac­tions associated with the Har­ris cam­paign touched off the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“Un­like Mr. Har­ris, we’re happy to as­sist in this in­ves­ti­ga­tion in any way we can. There’s one cam­paign un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion here, that’s the cam­paign be­long­ing to Mark Har­ris,” Simp­son said.

In their let­ter to the board, the Har­ris cam­paign said they want to sub­poena McCready to tes­tify about any per­sonal knowl­edge he has of al­le­ga­tions that bal­lots were dis­carded, any pay­ments his cam­paign made to election work­ers in Bladen and Robe­son coun­ties and any cor­re­spon­dence his cam­paign or the Demo­cratic Party had with Board of Elec­tions mem­bers.

The Har­ris cam­paign also wants to sub­poena Jens Lutz, a for­mer Bladen County elec­tions board mem­ber, to tes­tify about com­mu­ni­ca­tions he re­port­edly had with the state board, as well as his for­mer busi­ness re­la­tion­ship with Dow­less. And Har­ris is seek­ing to sub­poena Andy Yates, owner of the Cor­nelius-based Red Dome con­sult­ing firm that ran much of Har­ris’ cam­paign and em­ployed Dow­less as a sub­con­trac­tor.

The Har­ris cam­paign is seek­ing Yates’ tes­ti­mony about “cam­paign di­rec­tions given to him by Mark Har­ris,” as well as other de­tails on the election and get-out-the-vote strate­gies.

Most of the other peo­ple the Har­ris cam­paign is seek­ing to sub­poena are Bladen County vot­ers and res­i­dents who have pre­vi­ously talked about or pro­vided af­fi­davits about the al­leged bal­lot-har­vest­ing scheme by Dow­less.

In cor­re­spon­dence with the pre­vi­ous board, the McCready cam­paign named 48 peo­ple they’re seek­ing to sub­poena. They were not go­ing to be sub­poe­naed to pro­vide tes­ti­mony, only to com­pel at­ten­dance, how­ever. The McCready cam­paign said it wanted to pre­serve grounds for pos­si­ble fu­ture pros­e­cu­tion of peo­ple in­volved in election fraud, which could be com­pro­mised if they were com­pelled to tes­tify be­fore the board and re­ceived a deal of some sort in ex­change for their tes­ti­mony.

McCready also sought to sub­poena Yates, as well as N.C. GOP chair­man Robin Hayes and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Dal­las Wood­house.

It’s pos­si­ble that not all peo­ple who the cam­paigns seek sub­poe­nas for will ul­ti­mately be sub­poe­naed, and not ev­ery­one who re­ceives a sub­poena may tes­tify. Board of Elec­tions chair­man Bob Cor­dle will have dis­cre­tion to limit the length of tes­ti­mony, and the board has said, “Du­plica­tive ques­tion­ing will be se­verely re­stricted.”

ROBERT LAHSER [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

Re­sults showed Repub­li­can Mark Har­ris, left, lead­ing by 905 votes over Dan McCready in the 9th District.

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