Here’s why McCready has a head start if there’s a new election in NC’s 9th District

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Election fraud investigation

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Democrat Dan McCready would have a commanding head start over Republican Mark Harris if there’s a new election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, according to new finance reports.

McCready has $338,000 in his campaign account compared with just over $19,000 for Harris, according to reports filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

The reports also show that Harris wound down his campaign after November’s election while McCready has begun rebuilding his.

The result of their 2018 election has been clouded by allegations of absentee ballot fraud. Although Harris leads McCready by 905 votes in unofficial returns, the State Board of Elections twice declined to certify his election. The board has since been investigating irregularities centered in Bladen County.

In the past month that investigation has taken place in the absence of a board, which was dissolved by court order on Dec. 28 as part of a separate case. This week Gov. Roy Cooper named a new board. It’s expected to hold a hearing on the 9th District this month.

After the hearing the board will vote to either certify Harris’ election or order a new vote. Or the board could deadlock, sending the matter to the U.S. House or to Cooper.

Harris assumed he’d been elected and even begun hiring a congressional staff. He raised less than $4,000 between Nov. 27 and Dec. 31, according to the report. It was on Nov. 27 that the board first declined to certify Harris’ election.

McCready, on the other already, began raising money right away. He began actively fundraising in December. Three announced Democratic presidential candidates — Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand — made fundraising appeals on his behalf

He raised $503,000 over the same period. Much of it — $379,000 — came though ActBlue, a clearinghouse for contributions to Democrats. Among McCready’s recent donors were actress Lilly Tomlin and former presidential adviser David Gergen, a North Carolina native.

Harris could not be reached Friday. Jason Williams, his 2018 campaign manager, told The Charlotte Observer earlier this week that Harris is “not in an active campaign.”

”Mark Harris is the Congressman-elect,” Williams said at the time, “and since his election on Nov., he has been working tirelessly preparing to represent the citizens of the 9th District.”

McCready, on the other hand, began laying the groundwork for a new campaign. About a dozen staffers from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee came to North Carolina to help resurrect the campaign, cranking up digital and fundraising operations.

”What we’ve seen over these last few weeks is just how invested people across the state and across the country are about what’s happening in the 9th District,” McCready spokesman Aaron Simpson said Friday. “What’s happening in the 9th District is not just about one election. It’s an attack on our democracy. That’s why it’s so important.”

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Jim Morrill, who grew up near Chicago, covers state and local politics. He’s worked at the Observer since 1981 and taught courses on North Carolina politics at UNC Charlotte and Davidson College.