North Carolina Election Saga Continues as State Board Sets Date for Election Re-Do

March 6, 2019 by TWN Staff
Democrat Dan McCready, center, poses for a photograph with supporters following his announcement that he is going back out on the campaign trail for the 9th Congressional District on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019 at The Dreamchaser's Brewery in Waxhaw, N.C. Following Thursday's decisive 5-0 vote by the North Carolina State Board of Elections in favor of a new election for the 9th Congressional District, McCready held a rally for supporters. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/TNS)

The ongoing saga in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District will drag on until at least September 10, after the state Elections Board unanimously voted on Monday to re-do the election.

Last November’s general election saw Republican Mark Harris beat Democrat Dan McCready  by a razor-thin 905 votes, but was tainted by a sophisticated absentee ballot fraud scheme by Harris’ consultant Leslie McCrae Dowless, Jr.

A new primary to decide who will compete for the seat will be held May 14, with the general election or runoff primary scheduled for September 10. If the runoff primary is required, the general election will be held on November 5.

Campaign filings begin next week.

Dan McCready has already announced his intent to run again and has been vigorously fundraising.

In a tweet last Friday, McCready wrote, “To everyone who defended the voters in #NC09, thank you! Together we stood up to fraud and we fought for every vote. But now our fight continues and we cannot take anything for granted.”

Mark Harris announced last week that he will not be running again, citing family and health issues. Other high-profile Republicans, including former Rep. Robert Pittenger, the incumbent defeated by Harris in last year’s primary, and former Governor Pat McCrory, have both announced they will not be running, setting up a wide open primary.

In Harris’ email to supporters last week announcing his decision not to run, he threw his support behind Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing. Rushing, a colorful character known for his white suit, white hat, and always present cigar, was profiled in the Washington Post recently as a real-life “Boss Hogg,” the despotic and bumbling commissioner in the television series “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

At the center of the controversy is a political consultant named Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., hired by Mark Harris to work on the campaign’s absentee ballot strategy and get-out-the-vote operation. The 61-year old former felon has been in and around North Carolina politics for awhile, but was long registered as a Democrat before switching parties after the 2016 election. Following his party change, he helped Mark Harris narrowly win the 2018 Republican primary over incumbent Robert Pittenger and led the absentee ballot campaign for Mark Harris in the general election against Dan McCready.

Dowless was arrested last Wednesday after being indicted for three felony charges of obstruction of justice, two charges of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, and two charges of possession of absentee ballot.

Kim Westbrook Strach, North Carolina State Board executive director, released a statement following the arrest, “These indictments should serve as a stern warning to anyone trying to defraud elections in North Carolina. Today is a new and better day for elections in our state.”

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