Legislation promptly passed by North Carolina’s lawmakers this week would plan a path for Republicans to ditch their nominee in a still-undecided U.S. House race impaired with ballot fraud accusations.
Carter Wrenn said “I think (legislators are) worried that Mark Harris might be damaged goods and they want to have the opportunity to have a different Republican nominee,” a Republican operative and consultant to former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms and others for more than 40 years. “That’s how I read those tea leaves.”
If the state elections board decides ballot irregularities or other problems cast the true outcome into doubt and force a redo, the legislation if permitted to go into law by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper would need new primary elections in the 9th Congressional District race, adding to a new general election.
That would give Republicans another look at Mark Harris, the Republican who led Democrat, Dan McCready by 905 votes in unapproved results. Harris hasn’t been confirmed the winner, and an investigation is examimning missing absentee ballots in rural Bladen County and whether uncovered ballots unlawfully handled by collection teams there could have been touched.
Bladen was the only county among the eight within the 9th District where Harris won a majority of mail-in absentee ballots over McCready.
State Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican, stated holding new primary elections in the 9th District was sensible due to unusual absentee ballots results also came up during last May’s primary. Harris won 96 percent of the mail-in ballots in Bladen County on the way to his slim victory over GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger.
U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat said the Republican-led General Assembly “has a political motive for doing this. They realize that Mark Harris is a damaged candidate and they’re trying to find a means of replacing him on the ballot, “So this is a pre-emptive strike, in my opinion, to remove Mark Harris and to get another nominee in there.”
The New primaries would give way for Pittenger or anyone else to raise the Republican banner against McCready or some other Democrat.
Pittenger said he intends to wait until after the elections board exposed its investigative findings at a hearing that was pushed on Friday until Jan. 11, meaning the seat will stay empty when Congress assembles Jan. 3.
He said in an interview Friday “I have received calls from a number of friends in the last couple days. My instincts are that I just think we ought to wait for this evidentiary hearing and let all the facts come out. Then after that, maybe I can give more consideration to that,”.
State Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse noted that If there were to be a new primary election the state GOP would remain neutral but “every candidate who enters that primary, if there is one, will have a chance to make their case.”
In an interview with WBTV on Friday, Harris paused criticizing party officials when he was asked if he felt under attack by fellow Republicans. “Well I certainly don’t feel the circling of the wagons around Harris the way I see the Democrats circling the wagons around McCready,” Harris said.
Democrats could sue if primaries are set in motion, Butterfield said. Pittenger and other Republicans didn’t argueHarris’ nomination though suspicions about absentee ballots in Bladen County were raised then, so now should be too late, Butterfield said.
Butterfield said “It’s fundamentally unfair to a candidate who has raised and spent millions of dollars in anticipation of Mark Harris being the opponent, to have to go through that again with a different opponent, “Dan McCready shouldn’t have to face two different opponents.”