Despite making numerous baseless claims about voter fraud over the years, President Donald Trump has remained silent on the contested congressional race in North Carolina’s 9th district, where allegations of election fraud centering around a Republican operative have prevented the state from certifying results.
But Mark Harris — the Republican candidate who was thought to have won a narrow victory over Democrat Dan McCready before his campaign’s connections to Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. came to light — revealed on Tuesday that Trump has encouraged him to “stand and fight.”
Harris told WSOC that he received “a call on New Year’s night from Congressman Jim Jordan who shared with me that he had just left a meeting with the president, and the president had asked him to call Mark Harris and let Mark Harris know that he was thinking about me, and for me to stand and fight, and we were not going to let this seat be taken from us.”
Harris’ interview occurred less than 24 hours after he reportedly set off a fire alarm and ran away from reporters, which he apologized for Tuesday.
To avoid the media, Mark Harris ran down a fire exit staircase. A man tried to prevent us from following but we still did. The alarm went off as he ran out. When media caught up he sprinted across the street to the First Baptist Church of Charlotte's parking lot #NC09 @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/vDFca16EYx
— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) January 8, 2019
It now appears as though Trump — who has blamed the fact that he received nearly three million fewer votes than his Democratic opponent in 2016 on “millions” of imaginary illegal ballots — is now supporting a Republican candidate whose campaign may have been involved in massive election fraud.
Dowless Jr., an “independent contractor” with Harris’ campaign, apparently paid people to collect absentee ballots and deliver them directly to him instead of putting them in the mail. An analysis of absentee ballots in multiple counties within North Carolina’s 9th congressional district has found evidence of irregularities.
Dowless Jr. was investigated for allegedly running a scheme to illegally steal voters’ absentee ballots in the 2016 elections. That case was referred to prosecutors for indictment, but charges were never filed. He also served a six-month prison sentence for a felony fraud conviction in the 1990s.
Harris, a pastor who wishes anti-sodomy laws still existed, reportedly hired Dowless Jr. and recommended him to several other Republican candidates. Records show the operative has been paid by at least nine campaigns for “get-out-the-vote work.”
Harris told WSOC that he talked “frequently” with Dowless Jr. during the 2018 campaign, but not about anything illegal.
McCready reacted to the initial reports by saying, “I didn’t serve overseas in the Marines to come home to North Carolina and watch a criminal, bankrolled by my opponent, take away people’s very right to vote” in a tweet last month.
The House seat for North Carolina’s 9th district remains vacant in the 116th Congress.
A hearing to potentially resolve the disputed election that was scheduled for later this week had to be postponed after the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement dissolved last month under an unrelated court order.
House Democrats have vowed not to seat Harris if his win is certified and threatened to sue the state.
The new Democratic-led House also has the power to investigate the election with subpoena power, determine a winner, or even call for a new election.