New vote called for in 9th District

The News & Observer - - Front Page - BY EMMA DUMAIN, PAUL A. SPECHT, BRIAN MUR­PHY AND TIM FUNK edu­[email protected]­clatchydc.com as­[email protected]­sob­server.com bmur­[email protected]­clatchydc.com [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

The high­est-rank­ing black mem­ber of Congress called for an en­tirely new elec­tion in North Carolina’s 9th Con­gres­sional District, a sign of grow­ing mo­men­tum for ma­jor ac­tion amid numer­ous re­ports of elec­tion fraud in the district.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cly­burn, a South Carolina Demo­crat and the in­com­ing House ma­jor­ity whip, has made fair elec­tions a cen­tral piece of his leg­isla­tive ca­reer. He was un­equiv­o­cal in what he thought should hap­pen next in the race be­tween Repub­li­can Mark Har­ris and Demo­crat Dan McCready, which North Carolina’s state board of elec­tions has de­clined to cer­tify be­cause of vot­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties among mail-in ab­sen­tee bal­lots in Bladen and Robe­son coun­ties.

“North Carolina ought to run ev­ery­thing over,” Cly­burn told McClatchy on Thurs­day. That in­cludes a new pri­mary with in­cum­bent Repub­li­can Rep. Robert Pit­tenger. “Pit­tenger ought to be on the bal­lot.”

Har­ris de­feated Pit­tenger in the May pri­mary, a race that like­wise has drawn scru­tiny over mail-in ab­sen­tee vote to­tals in ru­ral Bladen County.

Cly­burn said he is “ab­so­lutely” op­posed to seat­ing Har­ris on Jan. 3, when the new Congress con­venes.

“I’m not too sure we ought not to sub­poena (him),” Cly­burn said of Har­ris. “We need to find out whether or not Har­ris was in­volved in these dis­cus­sions, and if he was, he ought to be dis­qual­i­fied as a can­di­date. So it’s not just about hav­ing a new elec­tion. We need to look at whether this man ought to be stand­ing for elec­tion in the first place.

The state board has sub­poe­naed the Har­ris cam­paign and Red Dome Group, a con­sult­ing firm that worked for Har­ris. Red Dome Group said it hired McCrae Dow­less, a Bladen County po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tive, who is un­der sus­pi­cion for

al­legedly gath­er­ing mailin ab­sen­tee bal­lots.

Cly­burn’s com­ments came after Demo­cratic leader Nancy Pelosi, the ex­pected in­com­ing speaker of the House, said a House com­mit­tee could look into the elec­tion.

“House Ad­min­is­tra­tion Com­mit­tee will have full in­ves­tiga­tive au­thor­ity to de­ter­mine the win­ner of the elec­tion,” she said. “This is big­ger than one seat. This is about un­der­min­ing the in­tegrity of our elec­tions and what was done there was so re­mark­able and that those en­ti­ties got away with it, even to the detri­ment of Repub­li­cans in the pri­mary.”

The U.S. House can call for a new elec­tion, in­clud­ing pri­maries. It can also refuse to seat any­one.

Cly­burn, the son of a min­is­ter, also ques­tioned Har­ris’ in­tegrity as a man of faith. Har­ris is the former pas­tor at Char­lotte’s First Bap­tist Church.

“This guy is sup­posed to be a min­is­ter,” Cly­burn said. “I don’t un­der­stand – evan­gel­i­cals or who­ever he may be – how they can ad­vo­cate the way they do on moral grounds.”

Also Thurs­day, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the state’s Repub­li­can Party soft­ened his de­mand that the race be cer­ti­fied.

“We will not op­pose if the non­par­ti­san Board of Elec­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tors de­ter­mine the out­come of the race was changed or there is a sub­stan­tial like­li­hood it could have been,” Dal­las Wood­house told the News & Ob­server in a text. He clar­i­fied that the GOP sup­ports the sce­nario “if the votes and/or bal­lots in ques­tion pass the nu­meric thresh­old that the race could have been changed (and) the CNN re­port is true that cer­tain groups were tar­geted for sys­tem­atic vote de­struc­tion.

“If they can show with cer­tainty that the out­come could NOT have been changed, they need to cer­tify Mr. Har­ris and con­tinue to sup­port all state and fed­eral crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions,” he con­tin­ued. “If they can show a sub­stan­tial like­li­hood it could have changed the race then we fully would sup­port a new elec­tion. If they hold a pub­lic hear­ing and sim­ply can’t de­ter­mine one way or the other then, we would not op­pose a short de­lay on the ques­tion of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion un­til they have more an­swers.”

Wood­house told CNN that he “threw up” after watch­ing the net­work’s cov­er­age of al­leged fraud Wed­nes­day night, an­chor Jim Sci­utto tweeted. “This has shaken us to the core,” Wood­house told CNN, ac­cord­ing to Sci­utto.

But Wood­house and state Repub­li­can Party Chair­man Robin Hayes con­tin­ued to in­sist that, bar­ring such ev­i­dence, the board should cer­tify Har­ris 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.”

Hayes said he has spo­ken to Har­ris since his vic­tory by 905 votes was called into ques­tion. “He’s com­pletely flab­ber­gasted,” Hayes said. “Mark’s a good man … and de­serves the whole idea of in­no­cent un­til some­body proves some­body guilty.”

James Cly­burn

Dal­las Wood­house

Dan McCready

Mark Har­ris

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