N.C. GOP increasingly doubtful about legitimacy of House race
Reports persuade Democrat to take back concession
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Republicans expressed mounting doubts Thursday about a disputed congressional race that their candidate once seemed to have won, with one of the state party’s most influential figures saying a new election could be appropriate in light of fraud allegations.
Lawmakers and strategists, effectively abandoning days of demands that state officials swiftly certify Mark Harris as the winner of the 9th District, said they worried that absentee ballot fraud may have infected both the November election and the Republican primary, which the incumbent, Robert M. Pittenger, lost in May. Pittenger has raised concerns about voting irregularities in the district.
In Washington, Democrats will control the House beginning in January. The likely House speaker, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., warned again Thursday that Harris might not be seated when the new Congress convenes.
“They should lay out their cards so everyone knows fact from fiction and fact from innuendo,” said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party.
“If they can state with certainty that whatever bad behavior that took place could not have changed the race, then they should certify Mr. Harris. If they can state there was a substantial likelihood that the race could have been altered, then we would not oppose a new election.”
Meanwhile Thursday, Dan McCready, the Democrat trailing in the 9th District, withdrew his concession.
Unofficial totals have Harris leading McCready by 905 votes. But the state elections board refused to certify the results last week because of allegations of “irregularities and concerted fraudulent activities” involving absentee ballots in the district.
The board is meeting later this month to hear evidence, but it’s unclear whether the race will be settled then. The board could order a new election.
McCready initially conceded the day after the election, when Harris’ lead was less than 1,900 votes. The margin was cut by half the next week, but he declined to seek a recount.
He changed his mind with the arrival of the allegations, some of which have been linked to a man who worked for Harris’ chief strategist.
At issue is who can handle completed ballots. North Carolina law allows only a family member or legal guardian to drop off absentee ballots for a voter.