Har­ris open to new vote if fraud proven

The Bradenton Herald - - Nation & World - BY ELY PORTILLO

Mark Har­ris, the con­gres­sional can­di­date at the cen­ter of the un­fold­ing elec­tion fraud scan­dal in North Car­olina’s 9th Dis­trict, said Fri­day that he would “whole­heart­edly sup­port” a new vote if fraud could have changed the out­come of his con­test last month.

“If this in­ves­ti­ga­tion finds proof of il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity on ei­ther side to such a level that it could have changed the out­come of the elec­tion then I would whole­heart­edly sup­port a new elec­tion,” said Har­ris, in a video state­ment re­leased by his cam­paign. He also said he was un­aware of any wrong­do­ing and is co­op­er­at­ing with the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which he hopes will lead to his vic­tory be­ing cer­ti­fied be­fore congress starts its new ses­sion in Jan­uary.

Har­ris has not taken ques­tions from the me­dia since the story first erupted last week, when the North Car­olina Board of Elec­tions re­fused to cer­tify the re­sults of his race against Demo­crat Dan McCready. Har­ris could be seen at his south­east Char­lotte home Fri­day, but a cam­paign rep­re­sen­ta­tive said he would not be avail­able for an in­ter­view.

He said he sup­ports an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into vot­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties that could have ben­e­fited “ei­ther party in this elec­tion or past elec­tion cy­cles.”

McCready, who ini­tially con­ceded the Nov. 6 race af­ter un­of­fi­cial re­sults showed him los­ing by 905 votes, with­drew his con­ces­sion Thurs­day. He’s call­ing for Har­ris to ex­plain what he knew about an al­leged scheme to il­le­gally col­lect ab­sen­tee bal­lots in Bladen County and when.

“I didn’t serve over­seas in the Marines just to come home to North Car­olina and watch a crim­i­nal, bankrolled by my op­po­nent, take away peo­ple’s very right to vote,” McCready said Thurs­day.

The Har­ris cam­paign hired Cor­nelius-based political con­sul­tant Red Dome Group and paid them al­most $430,000. Andy Yates, the founder and head of Red Dome, has said the firm hired Bladen political op­er­a­tive McCrae Dow­less as an in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tor. Dow­less is al­leged to have run an ab­sen­tee-bal­lot-col­lect­ing op­er­a­tion that ben­e­fited Har­ris.

“My cam­paign and I are co­op­er­at­ing fully with the State Board of Elec­tions in­ves­ti­ga­tion and we will con­tinue to do so I trust the process that’s un­der­way, just as I’ve al­ways trusted the de­ci­sions of the vot­ers,” said Har­ris. “Al­though I was ab­so­lutely un­aware of any wrong­do­ing, that will not pre­vent me from co­op­er­at­ing.”

A cam­paign fi­nance fil­ing late Thurs­day shows the Har­ris cam­paign owes Red Dome $34,310 for “Re­im­burse­ment Pay­ment for Bladen Ab­sen­tee.”

The Board of Elec­tions is plan­ning to hold an ev­i­den­tiary hear­ing by Dec. 21. They could call for a new elec­tion. Top Democrats in the U.S. House have also said they likely won’t seat Har­ris in Congress if he ar­rives next month, height­en­ing the pres­sure for a new race. Dal­las Wood­house, the North Car­olina GOP’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, said Thurs­day that the party is open to a new elec­tion if it can be shown that fraud could have changed the out­come.

“We will not op­pose if the non-par­ti­san Board of Elec­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tors de­ter­mine the out­come of the race was changed or there is a sub­stan­tial like­li­hood it could have been,” Wood­house said.

But Robin Hayes, the state party chair, said he thinks Har­ris should be cer­ti­fied as the win­ner.

“Based on what we know at this point,” Hayes told The Char­lotte Ob­server on Thurs­day, “we think Mark Har­ris fairly and cor­rectly won this elec­tion and we think he should be cer­ti­fied.”

Har­ris won mail-in ab­sen­tee bal­lots by a mar­gin of 420 to McCready’s 258 in Bladen County.

In the pri­mary, when he de­feated in­cum­bent Repub­li­can Robert Pit­tenger by 828 votes, Har­ris’s mar­gin in Bladen County was even big­ger – 437 mail-in ab­sen­tee votes to 17 for Pit­tenger.

Mark Har­ris

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