McCready cam­paign­ing after new vote or­dered

The Charlotte Observer - - Front Page - BY JIM MORRILL AND TEO ARMUS

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The new cam­paign in North Carolina’s 9th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict kicked off Fri­day with a rally by Demo­crat Dan McCready, hints from sev­eral would-be GOP can­di­dates and si­lence from Repub­li­can Mark Har­ris.

The flurry of ac­tion came a day after the North Carolina State Board of Elec­tions or­dered a new elec­tion fol­low­ing a hear­ing that de­tailed elec­tion fraud in Bladen County.

It made its de­ci­sion after Har­ris stunned the hear­ing with his own call for a new elec­tion, after in­sist­ing for weeks that he won the vote last fall and should be cer­ti­fied. He led McCready by 905 votes after Elec­tion Day.

“When you see a cul­ture of cor­rup­tion built by some­one else’s cam­paign, this is big­ger than one race, this is big­ger than one elec­tion,” McCready told a room­ful of sup­port­ers at a Wax­haw brew­ery. “We are go­ing to keep fight­ing.”

Whether McCready could face a re­match with Har­ris is un­clear.

Har­ris didn’t com­ment on the race be­fore abruptly leav­ing the hear­ing mo­ments after mak­ing his state­ment, in which he al­luded to health is­sues that hos­pi­tal­ized him in Jan­uary.

“Though I thought I was ready to un­dergo the rig­ors of this hear­ing and am get­ting stronger, clearly I am not and I strug­gled this morn­ing with

both re­call and con­fu­sion,” he said, adding that he’d had two strokes while hos­pi­tal­ized for a se­vere in­fec­tion.

For­mer Sen. Tommy Tucker of Wax­haw, who is ex­plor­ing a 9th Dis­trict race, said Har­ris’ de­ci­sion should be “based on his health is­sue whether he can sus­tain an­other rig­or­ous cam­paign.”

Har­ris could not be reached Fri­day.


At the hear­ing, Har­ris was crit­i­cized for ig­nor­ing warn­ings from his own son about get­ting in­volved with Bladen County op­er­a­tive McCrae Dow­less, who ran his ab­sen­tee vote pro­gram in Bladen and Robe­son coun­ties. Tes­ti­mony from wit­nesses showed Dow­less at the cen­ter of what of­fi­cials de­scribed as a “co­or­di­nated, un­law­ful, and sub­stan­tially re­sourced ab­sen­tee bal­lot scheme.”

The scan­dal drew national at­ten­tion. Meet­ing with re­porters Fri­day, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was asked why he hadn’t spo­ken out about the elec­tion fraud.

“I con­demn any elec­tion fraud,” he said, cit­ing what he saw was fraud against Repub­li­cans in Cal­i­for­nia, Texas and Florida. “I con­demn all of it, in­clud­ing North Carolina.”

Some Repub­li­cans say Har­ris shouldn’t run.

“It would prob­a­bly not be in (his fam­ily’s) best in­ter­ests or our party’s best in­ter­est for him to run again, so he can fo­cus on his health and putting this is­sue be­hind him,” said Repub­li­can con­sul­tant Larry Sha­heen, who worked for Har­ris’s GOP pri­mary op­po­nent, for­mer U.S. Rep. Robert Pit­tenger.

The pri­mary cam­paign would be rel­a­tively short. Though no sched­ule has been set, elec­tions of­fi­cials said one sce­nario would be for a May pri­mary, a June runoff if needed and an Oc­to­ber gen­eral elec­tion. The same of­fi­cials have pro­posed a May 14 pri­mary in the 3rd Dis­trict, va­cant since the death of Repub­li­can U.S. Rep. Wal­ter Jones.

While McCready al­ready has raised more than $500,000 and has a national net­work of donors, Har­ris and other Repub­li­cans would be start­ing from scratch. Har­ris es­sen­tially ended his cam­paign after Novem­ber. And some Repub­li­cans won­der, since the elec­tion fraud scan­dal, where he would find the money or staff to run.

Dan Barry, the Union County GOP chair­man, said Har­ris and his fam­ily “will be mulling over their abil­ity to run a se­ri­ous cam­paign, raise money, re­cruit vol­un­teers and ex­e­cute.”


Asked whether Har­ris would be po­lit­i­cally dam­aged if he runs, Dal­las Wood­house, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the state GOP, said it would be up to vot­ers to de­cide.

“Quite frankly, as I said yes­ter­day, this is not an episode of ‘Perry Ma­son’,” he said Fri­day. “This is about real peo­ples’ lives, real fam­i­lies, and it’s go­ing to take some time to fig­ure out where every­body goes from here.”

There could be more GOP can­di­dates.

For­mer Meck­len­burg County com­mis­sioner Matthew Ri­den­hour, a Char­lotte Repub­li­can who lost his seat in Novem­ber, said he’s re­ceived texts and emails since Thurs­day urg­ing him to run. He ex­pects to de­cide within a few days. And Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors could run for Congress in a spe­cial elec­tion with­out fear of los­ing their seats, which are not up un­til 2020.

De­spite McCready’s head­start, the 9th Dis­trict still leans Repub­li­can. No Demo­crat has rep­re­sented it for decades and Trump car­ried the dis­trict by 11 points. But some Repub­li­cans said the elec­tion fraud and Har­ris’ ties to Dow­less have hurt the party’s la­bel in the 9th.

“We have some work to do to re­pair our brand, and I’m not sure the cur­rent folks in lead­er­ship know ex­actly how to do that,” said Sha­heen. “In my opin­ion party lead­er­ship in Raleigh made a fa­tal mis­take by jump­ing out in front and be­ing so sup­port­ive when they didn’t have the whole story.”

In Wax­haw, McCready ap­plauded the elec­tion board de­ci­sion.

“Ev­ery day that goes by with­out rep­re­sen­ta­tion is tragic,” he said. “We’ve got three-quar­ters of a mil­lion peo­ple who have no voice right now be­cause of fraud and cheat­ing con­ducted by my op­po­nent’s cam­paign.... A lot of peo­ple have had their con­fi­dence shaken in our elec­toral sys­tem. But we also have con­fi­dence now that the process works.”

Staff writ­ers Adam Bell and Bruce Hen­der­son con­trib­uted.

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @JimMor­rill

JEFF SINER [email protected]­lot­teob­

JEFF SINER [email protected]­lot­teob­

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