Local & State Voices

The redeeming memory of the 9th District scandal

Mark Harris’ son makes an emotional statement on his parents after his testimony

Wednesday’s District 9 hearing at the State Board of Elections ended on an emotional note, with Mark Harris crying as his son, John Harris, read a statement about his parents’ actions.
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Wednesday’s District 9 hearing at the State Board of Elections ended on an emotional note, with Mark Harris crying as his son, John Harris, read a statement about his parents’ actions.

With early voting for the 9th Congressional District primary getting under way, I’m reflecting on how amazing North Carolina’s election fraud scandal has been. It’s had the elements of both a Shakespearian tragedy and comedy; good guys and bad, smart guys and dummies, and of course the government. Seared in my memory, and perhaps lost on many in all the hubbub, was one truly remarkable moment, involving a father and his son. On some level, it was something most of us could probably relate to. And it ultimately made all the difference.

On a cold Wednesday in February, with the partisan State Board of Elections apparently poised to deadlock, Mark Harris’ son, John Harris surprised everyone when he walked into that hearing and did the unthinkable, he told the truth. His dad and those around him had been steadfast up until that point they had no way to know about the shenanigans going on in Bladen County with absentee ballots. John Harris said otherwise. In other words, he told on his father. Time and again during the campaign he warned his father and told him the truth. It’s been said the difference between American politics and professional wrestling is the absence of real emotion. What we witnessed that day was real. Mark Harris and his family cried, as did so many others. It would be easy to assume they were crying because they felt betrayed, or out of disappointment or anger or even shame. And perhaps there was some of all that. As a father, I’d like to think at least some were tears of joy, as Harris realized what an honest young man his son turned out to be.

I quietly wondered how my own children would have responded under similar circumstances. The old adage about not asking questions you don’t want the answer to probably applies here. But I did ask my sons. Much to my disappointment, all three young men insisted that they would have lied to protect me. I pressed, “Even if I made bad choices and did things the wrong way?” The answer was the same. They referred to loyalty, family, sticking together and even “having my back” as being more important than telling the truth. One even kicked the question back and asked, “Wouldn’t you lie for me?” All I could say is, I hope not. I’ve always tried to teach my kids that honesty reflects our true character and to tell the whole truth, especially when it’s not convenient and regardless of the consequences.

John Steinbeck once wondered, “‘Why do men like me want sons? It must be because they hope in their poor beaten souls that these new men, who are their blood, will do the things they were not strong enough nor wise enough nor brave enough to do. It is rather like another chance at life; like a new bag of coins at a table of luck after your fortune is gone.’” Like most fathers, I expect my sons to be the man I wish I was. It’s clear I still have work to do.

As for Mark and John Harris, I think we owe them a bit of gratitude. In the drama that unfolded before us, John Harris revealed himself to be everything I’m sure his dad ever hoped he would be. In return, Mark Harris followed his lead, called for a new election and withdrew. In so many ways, it was a perfect ending to a tragic comedy.

Mark Harris’ legacy will not include “congressman.” It will include a far more important achievement — “father.” Through all the tears, deep down inside, I hope he was feeling the immense joy and satisfaction that many of us felt for him. That boy of his turned out to be one heck of a fine man.

Email: billy@billymaddalon.com