The members of the North Carolina Board of Elections voted unanimously Thursday to hold a new election in the 9th District. The panel is composed of three Democrats and two Republicans.
Republican candidate Mark Harris called for a new election before he stormed out of the hearing midway through his testimony on Thursday. He said it was difficult to testify after being hospitalized for two strokes earlier in the year.
Mark Elias, the attorney for Democrat Dan McCready, also called for a new election earlier in the proceedings.
The vote was a dramatic end to a turbulent day of hearings that began with accusations of burying evidence.
The hearing opened with general anger at Harris’ campaign attorneys who tried to submit damning documents at the 11th hour Wednesday before Harris’ son took the stand to deliver damaging testimony.
One of the emails in particular showed Harris’ interest in hiring political operative McCrae Dowless due to his work on a 2016 Republican primary campaign. Dowless allegedly rigged the absentee ballots in that contest to push his candidate over the line.
That bombshell came just hours after Harris’ son, John Harris, essentially laid out a paper trail showing that his father was warned about Dowless’ tactics and decided to hire him anyway.
Enter Mark Harris Thursday afternoon.
Harris had to field questions about his correspondence with his son. After intense questioning, Mark Harris called his son “a little judgmental with a taste of arrogance” in his attempt to minimize the damage done by his testimony.
He had to explain why he alluded to McCrae’s voter fraud schemes in emails from 2016, then claimed to believe the characterization of him as a “good old boy” when he hired him in 2018.
When the morning’s proceedings concluded, things were not looking good for Harris.
Harris himself seems to have agreed. When the hearing continued after lunch, Harris called for a new election, saying that the evidence in the case was tainted. He also claimed that the strokes he suffered a few months ago were interfering with his ability to testify.
Harris concluded his statement and left the room.
The hearing continued for a while longer until the board voted to redo the election (and a handful of other minor elections centered on the tainted Bladen County).
The board will have to meet again to decide on the new election date. State law dictates that the new election will require new primaries for both parties.
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