Republican Mark Harris, the North Carolina congressional candidate embroiled in an apparent election fraud scandal, abruptly called for a new election to take place while testifying before the North Carolina state board of elections on Thursday.
Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready in the November election for North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District. But an investigation revealed that the Red Dome Group, a firm contracted by Harris’ campaign, was believed to have committed election fraud. In the four months since the election, Harris has maintained he had no prior knowledge of the fraudulent activities.
On Wednesday, Harris’s son, John, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, testified about email evidence that appeared to show that his father had been warned against engaging with Red Dome Group and Leslie McCrae Dowless, the political operative who had contracted with the firm and who had a history of shady behavior when it came to elections. John’s testimony revealed that Harris knew as early as 2016 and received emails from John as late as April 2018 warning him about the voting irregularities produced by Red Dome Group.
Thursday’s hearing started off a bit explosive, as the prosecution accused Harris’ legal team of withholding subpoenaed documents. After the board settled the matter, Harris was introduced and faced questions for the first time all week. Giving his account, Harris said a local judge introduced him to Dowless and that they met in a furniture store in Bladen in April 2017. Harris maintained that Dowless never told him about what Red Dome Group actually did and that after two weeks of prayer, he decided to hire him.
He went on to note Wednesday’s testimony by his son, saying John was 27 years old at the time and that he thought because John had never been to Bladen—and because he thought him to be judgmental and arrogant—he was making too big a deal out of the operation. Ultimately, Harris conceded that his son was a “good prophetic.”
The board called for a one-hour lunch break at 1 p.m., but came back at 2 p.m. to extend it an hour. Shortly before 3 p.m., Harris reentered the building and made the announcement that he believed a new election was needed.
“I believe a new election should be called,” he said. “It’s become clear to me the public’s confidence in the Ninth District...general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.”
After calling for the new election, Harris said that he was unable to complete his testimony due to health-related reasons—he was hospitalized in December and has since been recovering from what he described as a severe bacterial infection.
To be clear, Harris’ call for a new election does not mean it will happen. North Carolina’s state board of elections, made up of three Democrats and two Republicans, will have to vote at least 4-1 to trigger an election.
Update, 4:10 p.m. ET: Shortly after Harris’ call for a new election, the board voted unanimously to order a new election for the Ninth District, along with elections for two other local offices. The board will reconvene in the coming weeks to set the dates for the new elections.