McCready takes back his con­ces­sion to Har­ris in dis­puted 9th District race

The News & Observer - - Triangle & N.c. - BY ELY POR­TILLO AND TIM FUNK ely­por­[email protected]­lot­teob­ [email protected]­lot­teob­ Ely Por­tillo: 704-358-5041; @ESPor­tillo Tim Funk: 704-358-5703; @tim­funk

Dan McCready, the Demo­crat run­ning for Congress in the dis­puted 9th District, has re­nounced his con­ces­sion.

His Thurs­day an­nounce­ment came amid al­le­ga­tions of ab­sen­tee bal­lot tam­per­ing and other in­ter­fer­ence in Bladen and Robe­son coun­ties that ap­pear to have helped Repub­li­can Mark Har­ris, who is ahead by just 905 votes in un­of­fi­cial re­turns.

The con­tro­versy has raised the pos­si­bil­ity that the N.C. Board of Elec­tions and Ethics En­force­ment will call a new elec­tion. McCready is­sued a force­ful state­ment Thurs­day, call­ing on Har­ris to de­tail his knowl­edge of sus­pect ac­tiv­i­ties on be­half of his cam­paign.

“I didn’t serve over­seas in the Marines just to come home to N.C. and watch a crim­i­nal, bankrolled by my op­po­nent, take away peo­ple’s very right to vote,” McCready said. “To­day I with­draw my con­ces­sion and call on Mark Har­ris to end his si­lence and tell us ex­actly what he knew, and when.”

McCready con­ceded the race the day after the Nov. 6 elec­tion and did not ask for the re­count he was en­ti­tled to in such a close elec­tion.

But last week, ques­tions be­gan about the ab­sen­tee bal­lots in Bladen and neigh­bor­ing Robe­son County. The state elec­tions board re­fused to cer­tify the re­sults, cit­ing “claims of numer­ous ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties and con­certed fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­i­ties re­lated to ab­sen­tee mail bal­lots,” ac­cord­ing to Joshua Mal­colm, who was bumped from the board’s vice chair to its chair­man by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Demo­crat, on Mon­day.

A po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tive named McCrae Dow­less has emerged as the fo­cus of al­le­ga­tions that he led a net­work of peo­ple who col­lected ab­sen­tee-by­mail bal­lots en masse, which is for­bid­den un­der N.C. law. The state Board of Elec­tions and the Wake County District At­tor­ney have launched in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Un­til Thurs­day, McCready has been mostly quiet, call­ing the al­le­ga­tions in Bladen “trou­bling.” Other N.C. Democrats as well as Demo­cratic lead­ers in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives have called for a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the al­le­ga­tions and even a new elec­tion that could again pit McCready against Har­ris and Lib­er­tar­ian Jeff Scott.

Since the elec­tion, Har­ris has spent time in Wash­ing­ton at­tend­ing ori­en­ta­tion events for in­com­ing fresh­man mem­bers of Congress. But U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who will be­come House ma­jor­ity leader when the new Congress con­venes in Jan­uary, has said Democrats will refuse to seat Har­ris un­less and un­til “sub­stan­tial” ques­tions about the in­tegrity of the elec­tion are re­solved.

The state elec­tions board has twice de­clined to cer­tify Har­ris’ vic­tory and plans to hold an ev­i­den­tiary hear­ing in the case this month.

Top N.C. Repub­li­can of­fi­cials said Thurs­day they could sup­port a new elec­tion in the 9th con­gres­sional district only if the board un­cov­ers “an over­whelm­ing amount of ev­i­dence” that fraud changed the out­come of the vote or that “there is a sub­stan­tial like­li­hood that it could have been (changed).”

The 9th con­gres­sional district has been rep­re­sented by a Repub­li­can in Wash­ing­ton for more than five decades. But Democrats be­lieved they had a good change to flip it with McCready, who ran as a cen­trist, tout­ing “coun­try over party” and pledg­ing not to vote for Demo­crat Nancy Pelosi as the next speaker.

In the elec­tion, McCready car­ried six of the eight coun­ties in the district, in­clud­ing Meck­len­burg. Har­ris, a South­ern Bap­tist min­is­ter who had de­feated U.S. Rep. Robert Pit­tenger, R-N.C., in the GOP pri­mary, car­ried Union and Bladen coun­ties.

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