Mark Harris says urge to see Clemson game made it seem he was running from reporters

Republican 9th District candidate Mark Harris’ abrupt departure from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center Monday night set off a fire alarm while reporters chased him through an emergency exit.

On social media, Harris issued an explanation that contradicts TV reports that he was dodging the media.

He tweeted late Monday that he was hurrying — like countless other Carolinians — to see the Clemson Tigers play the Alabama Crimson Tide for the national championship at 8 p.m on ESPN.

“Sorry I missed you guys tonight,” Harris tweeted. “I had to get to the kickoff of the National Championship game. We’ll have plenty to talk about in the days ahead.”

He told WBTV in an interview that he regretted the quick exit, which happened at the Government Center after he attended a meeting of the Mecklenburg County Republican Party.

As Harris exited the conference room shortly before 7:30 p.m., a half-dozen reporters, including a Charlotte Observer reporter, were waiting to speak with him. Instead of walking past the group to the lobby, Harris exited through an emergency stairwell door, setting off an alarm.

An unidentified man blocked the exit at one point, to keep reporters from following.

WSOC reporter Joe Bruno called the exit “bizarre.”

Harris hurried across Third Street and got into a car in the First Baptist Church rear parking lot — where he was formerly the pastor — and drove away.

“Looking back on it now I regret it,” Harris told WBTV. “I think it was a rookie mistake, I think I probably should have just walked by you guys and said no comment...BBut again I had my wife, I wanted to get to the national championship game that was going on.”

Harris’ Democratic 9th District competitor, Dan McCready, joined TV stations in their interpretation of the quick exit and tweeted: “Mark Harris can run from the media, but he can’t hide from the truth. The people deserve answers.”