An ex-candidate in a North Carolina congressional race marked by fraud allegations is running again
INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. (AP) — A former North Carolina congressional candidate whose 2018 race was linked to allegations of absentee ballot fraud that led to a new election and charges against others is running again for the U.S. House next year.
The Rev. Mark Harris, a Republican, announced on Tuesday that he will run for the 8th Congressional District seat currently held by GOP U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop, who last month revealed plans to run for state attorney general.
The 8th District currently stretches across all or parts of eight suburban and rural counties east of Charlotte and is solidly conservative. But the state’s congressional map is expected to be redrawn this fall for the 2024 elections.
Harris appeared to have received the most votes in the 9th District general election in November 2018. But allegations surfaced that a political operative who worked for Harris had run an illegal “ballot harvesting” operation in Bladen County, with the operative and his helpers gathering up ballots from votes and offering to put them in the mail.
The State Board of Elections held a hearing in early 2019, which included testimony from Harris and his adult son.
Harris himself called for a new election, which the board unanimously ordered. No charges were filed against Harris, who didn’t seek to run in the do-over election, which was won by Bishop.
But in his announcement release, Harris cast doubt on the board’s decision to deny him a victory, referring to a “manufactured scandal” that resulted in the state board “not certifying our victory in 2018.”
“I am one of the few people who truly understands the extremes Democrats will go to in order to advance their woke, leftist agenda,” he said. The board was comprised of three Democrats and two Republicans.
A state investigation led to charges against multiple people, with plea convictions by several of them. The operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, was charged with several counts of obstructing justice and possession of absentee ballots, but he died last year before his case went to trial. Harris testified during the board hearing that Dowless assured him that they weren’t breaking the law.
“I fully expect a flurry of lies and rumors from both Democrats and some from my own party,” Harris said on Tuesday. “But as these political games play out, I’m focused on the glaring realities of today: the constant climb of of daily living costs, a Southern border that remains open, and hardworking Americans suffering from Bidenomics.”
Harris “wants to engage in revisionist history,” State Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton said Wednesday in a news release. “He’s running again under the guise that his last election ‘was stolen’” — calling it a “shameful effort to gaslight voters.”
Harris was a former president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte. He became the senior pastor of a church in Mooresville in 2020.