‘The people of North Carolina deserve nothing less than the full confidence and trust in the electoral system….’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) After three and a half harrowing days of testimony during what was supposed to be a one-day evidentiary hearing before the North Carolina State Board of Elections, battered Republican candidate Mark Harris on Thursday called for a new election.
The NCSBE later voted unanimously in support of the election re-do following months of legal and political wrangling over accusations of ballot fraud.
After the board adjourned for lunch, it went into closed session. Outlets including Raleigh’s WRAL said that Harris then called for a new election in the state’s 9th Congressional District—the outcome McCready’s team had been seeking.
In another surprise revelation on the stand, Harris said that he had suffered two strokes while in the hospital overcoming an infection in January, and that he was struggling to get through the hearing, reported the Charlotte Observer.
It cast serious doubt as to whether Harris would, in fact, be the candidate in the election re-do. Robert Pittenger, the Republican incumbent whom Harris defeated in last year’s primary, had previously said he was not interested in another run, but the new developments may change that.
State Republicans now reportedly plan to hold a primary before the yet-to-be-announced date of the general election and allow candidates to file to replace Harris.
NCGOP Chair Robin Hayes released a statement of support for Harris’s reversal on Thursday.
“We respect Dr. Harris’ decision on behalf of the voters. This has been a tremendously difficult situation for all involved and we wish him the best as he recovers from his illness and subsequent complications.”
They had previously hoped that evidence would show any alleged ballot fraud engineered by Bladen County political operative McCrae Dowless was insufficient to overcome Harris’s 905 vote advantage, leading the board to certify the November election.
But the high-powered legal team for McCready may simply have outflanked Harris.
Elias, who was Hillary Clinton’s campaign counsel during the 2016 election, has a long history of representing the Democrats’ top figures, sometimes under nefarious circumstances.
On Wednesday, the board hearing caught many off guard—including the Republican candidate himself—by calling Harris’s son, John, to the stand.
The younger Harris, an assistant U.S. attorney in the state, testified that he had e-mailed his dad warning about the rumors of fraud surrounding Dowless, but the elder Harris chose to disregard them.
The testimony appeared to have an emotional toll on both men.
“I love my dad and I love my mom,” John Harris said. “I certainly have no vendetta against them, no family scores to settle, OK? I think they made mistakes in this process, and they certainly did things differently than I would have done them.”
During the morning testimony on Thursday, Mark Harris told the board that he hadn’t furnished the records of the exchange with his son, nor acknowledged it in public statements about the election fraud, because he had considered it a “family conversation” and not official campaign advice.
Harris said he dismissed the warning at the time because he knew his son had not been to Bladen nor spoken to the many people in the county who touted Dowless’s get-out-the-vote efforts. He said his son was known to have a streak of “arrogance,” but that in this case he was right.
Hayes said the board’s work to clean up the pervasive atmosphere of fraud in the state remains paramount. Republicans there have previously pointed to systemic ballot-fraud abuse that goes well beyond Dowless and had previously favored Democratic candidates.
“We will continue to work with legislators and investigators on how we can improve the electoral system so that these kinds of situations can be avoided in the future,” Hayes said. “The people of North Carolina deserve nothing less than the full confidence and trust in the electoral system.”