Mark Harris calls for new election in fraud-tainted House race
Republican candidate Mark Harris on Thursday reversed his position and called for a new election to settle a House race in North Carolina marred by ballot fraud.
“Through the testimony I have listened to over the past three days, I believe a new election should be called,” Mr. Harris said at a State Board of Election hearing into fraud allegations linked to his campaign.
“It has become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the 9th District seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted,” he said.
Mr. Harris insisted that he and leaders of his campaign were unaware of the alleged misconduct of a political operative.
The reversal followed revelations that the Harris campaign attorney had withheld documents relevant to the investigation.
He had been fighting to have the board certify the Nov. 6 results that showed Mr. Harris beating Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes.
The Election Board is tasked with deciding whether to certify the results or call a new election. It has been holding a hearing for four days and had expected to extend the hearing into next week.
After spending three hours on the stand Thursday, Mr. Harris said inconsistencies in his testimony were due to a severe infection and two strokes that put him in the hospital last month.
“Though I thought I was ready to undergo the rigors of this hearing and am getting stronger, I clearly am not and I struggled this morning with both recall and confusion,” he said.
Earlier, Mr. Harris testified that the campaign operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, had assured him they were not breaking the law.
“He said we don’t touch ballots or take ballots,” said Mr. Harris, a former pastor.
Mr. Dowless apparently lied to the candidate, according to evidence presented by election officials at the hearing.
The handling and collection of absentee ballots, which is illegal in North Carolina, is at the heart of fraud allegations that prevented the previous Election Board from certifying the Nov. 6 results and kept the 9th District seat empty since the new Congress convened Jan. 3.
As he planned his run in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, Mr. Harris said Mr. Dowless was introduced to him as a “good ol’ boy” who “eats, lived, slept and drank politics.”
Mr. Dowless had a reputation for running an aggressive and proven operation to boost turnout and absentee ballot voting.
Election Director Kim Strach has called Mr. Dowless’ program “a coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme.”
In North Carolina, it is illegal for anyone other than a voter or close relative to mail in an absentee ballot.
But that’s what they did, according to testimony by workers involved in the program linked to the Harris campaign.
Red Dome Group, a consulting firm hired by the campaign, contracted Mr. Dowless to run the absentee ballots operation, according to testimony.
Andy Yates, co-founder and senior partner at Red Dome Group, testified that he also did not know what Mr. Dowless allegedly was doing.
Mr. Harris’ son, John Harris, an assistant U.S. attorney in North Carolina, testified Wednesday that he warned his father that the absentee ballot drive looked fishy.
The elder Mr. Harris did not heed the warning.
“I had no reason to believe that my father or mother knew Dowless was doing the things that have been described,” the son said. “I think they were lied to, and they believed the person who lied to them.”
On the stand Thursday, the elder Mr. Harris said he was “very proud” of his son.