Report: GOP Officials Warned About Potential North Carolina Fraud After Primary

UNITED STATES - JUNE 13: Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., leaves the House Republican Conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington on Wednesday morning, June 13, 2018. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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December 6, 2018 2:50 p.m.

Rep. Robert Pittenger’s (R-NC) staff warned state and national Republican officials that his primary loss to Mark Harris may have been tainted by fraud way back in May, according to a new report from the Washington Post, but little was done to look into it.

Pittenger aides told the North Carolina Republican Party’s executive director and a regional political director for the National Republican Congressional Committee that they believed fraud had occurred, people familiar with their discussions told the Post.

On election night, as it appeared he was headed for a narrow defeat, Pittenger complained of the “ballot stuffers in Bladen” County, according to the Post. And he tried to warn the party — to no avail.

The NRCC’s regional political director and point person for North Carolina campaigns, Tyler Foote, has since moved on to become Harris’s prospective chief of staff. An NRCC spokesman denied to the Post that they’d been alerted.

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Dallas Woodhouse, the state party’s executive director, initially said he hadn’t been alerted to the potential of absentee fraud by a Harris-hired consultant, Leslie McCrae Dowless, before admitting that he may have just shrugged them off in the heat of the campaign fight.

“If somebody said something about the absentee ballots, it is just very possible that it didn’t register with us,” Woodhouse told the Post. “We had a lot of campaigns and a lot of people expressing concerns at the end of the election, and we were trying to quickly move on to the general election.”

Harris went on to narrowly defeat Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in an election that is now under heavy scrutiny. Absentee voters in Dowless’s home base of Bladen County voted by huge margins for Harris in numbers that are hard to believe are accurate, and multiple Democrats have come forward to say people came to collect their unsealed absentee ballots, a process that is illegal in the state. Two members of Dowless’s own staff have said they collected absentee ballots at his behest, not knowing it was illegal.

The state board of elections has refused to certify the election results, and plans to meet on or before Dec. 21 to hold a hearing on its current investigation into the allegations. There’s a real possibility that they will call for a new election. The incoming House Democratic leadership has also indicated that they’re unlikely to seat Harris until these issues are cleared up.

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