Politics & Government

In reversal, WRAL invites Mark Harris to debate

A Raleigh-area television station has reversed its decision to exclude Mark Harris from a U.S. Senate debate, citing stronger poll numbers for the Charlotte Republican.

A conservative group had claimed that Harris was not invited to a televised debate “because of his pro-family stance and his work to pass the marriage amendment.”

But a representative for WRAL said that a poll released Tuesday showed Harris above the threshold of 10 percent support among likely GOP primary votes and that Harris could join the debate. In prior polls, the station said, Harris fell below that figure.

The Harris campaign had argued that its candidate passed that threshold in other polls.

Harris, pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church, has been considered one of the top candidates in the race. In 2012, he was one of the leaders of the effort to pass an amendment to the North Carolina Constitution banning same-sex marriage.

The station plans a debate among Senate candidates on April 23. It has invited three of the eight Republicans seeking the seat: Thom Tillis, Greg Brannon and Heather Grant.

The WRAL debate comes a day after a televised debate co-sponsored by the Observer at Davidson College. It includes Tillis, Brannon, Grant and Harris.