Politics & Government

Democrat McCready takes back concession in disputed 9th congressional district race

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Election fraud investigation

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Dan McCready, the Democrat running for Congress in the disputed 9th District, has renounced his concession.

His Thursday announcement came amid allegations of absentee ballot tampering and other interference in Bladen and Robeson counties that appear to have helped Republican Mark Harris, who is ahead by just 905 votes in unofficial returns.

The controversy has raised the possibility that the N.C. Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement will call a new election. McCready issued a forceful statement Thursday, calling on Harris to detail his knowledge of suspect activities on behalf of his campaign.

“I didn’t serve overseas in the Marines just to come home to N.C. and watch a criminal, bankrolled by my opponent, take away people’s very right to vote,” McCready said. “Today I withdraw my concession and call on Mark Harris to end his silence and tell us exactly what he knew, and when.”

McCready conceded the race the day after the Nov. 6 election and did not ask for the recount he was entitled to in such a close election.

But last week, questions began about the absentee ballots in Bladen and neighboring Robeson County. The state elections board refused to certify the results, citing “claims of numerous irregularities and concerted fraudulent activities related to absentee mail ballots,” according to Joshua Malcolm, who was bumped from the board’s vice chair to its chairman by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, on Monday.

A political operative named McCrae Dowless has emerged as the focus of allegations that he led a network of people who collected absentee-by-mail ballots en masse, which is forbidden under N.C. law. The state Board of Elections and the Wake County District Attorney have launched investigations.

Until Thursday, McCready has been mostly quiet, calling the allegations in Bladen “troubling.” Other N.C. Democrats as well as Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives have called for a thorough investigation of the allegations and even a new election that could again pit McCready against Harris and Libertarian Jeff Scott.

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Since the election, Harris has spent time in Washington attending orientation events for incoming freshman members of Congress. But U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who will become House majority leader when the new Congress convenes in January, has said Democrats will refuse to seat Harris unless and until “substantial” questions about the integrity of the election are resolved.

The state elections board has twice declined to certify Harris’ victory and plans to hold an evidentiary hearing in the case this month.

Top N.C. Republican officials said Thursday they could support a new election in the 9th congressional district only if the board uncovers “an overwhelming amount of evidence” that fraud changed the outcome of the vote or that “there is a substantial likelihood that it could have been (changed).”

The 9th congressional district has been represented by a Republican in Washington for more than five decades. But Democrats believed they had a good change to flip it with McCready, who ran as a centrist, touting “country over party” and pledging not to vote for Democrat Nancy Pelosi as the next speaker.

In the election, McCready carried six of the eight counties in the district, including Mecklenburg. Harris, a Southern Baptist minister who had defeated U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., in the GOP primary, carried Union and Bladen counties.

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Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041; @ESPortillo

Tim Funk: 704-358-5703; @timfunk

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