Republican Mark Harris won’t seek the same congressional seat he vied for last year when North Carolina holds a new election later this year, he announced on Tuesday.
Last week, Harris ended his bid to be certified the winner in North Carolina’s fraught 9th congressional district election after acknowledging he was the beneficiary of a large-scale election fraud scheme perpetrated by at least one person working for his campaign.
The North Carolina Board of Elections acted quickly, announcing the state must administer a new election to choose the district’s congressperson. Thanks to a new law rushed through the state legislature at the end of 2018, that process will begin with a new set of primaries for each party.
On Tuesday, Harris — who cited health issues in his decision to end the hearings by the Board of Elections — announced that he would not seek the GOP nomination this go around.
“After consulting with my physicians, there are several things that my health situation requires as a result of the extremely serious condition that I faced in mid-January,” said Harris in a statement on Tuesday. “Given my health situation, the need to regain full strength, and the timing of this surgery the last week of March, I have decided not to file in the new election for Congressional District 9.”
Harris’s abrupt conclusion of the Board of Elections hearing last week was curiously timed, coming just as the state was beginning to piece together evidence that Harris was in fact aware of an effort to interfere with absentee ballots in Bladen County. Local officials have suggested Harris might still be a focus of a potential criminal investigation after evidence was uncovered suggesting Harris knowingly sought the services of McCrae Dowless, a GOP strategist with a history of interfering in local elections by manipulating, withholding, or outright stealing absentee ballots.
In addition to his narrow edge in the general election, Harris won the original GOP primary last spring by an even tighter margin, again owed entirely to his performance in absentee votes. Former Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) was unseated in the primary.
Harris also used his statement on Tuesday to throw his support to local Republican county commissioner Stony Rushing, a far right conspiracy theorist and avid gun supporter who was among the more vocal defenders of Harris throughout his legal battle.
In January, Rushing took to Facebook to claim that the elections board hotline received virtually no complaints from voters to report anomalies with their absentee ballots, insinuating that the state Democratic Party concocted allegations of fraud to steal the election. His false Facebook post was then cited by the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, who admitted to disseminating inaccurate information. Rushing repeatedly shared misleading or outright false social media posts related to the district race throughout the fraud investigation.
Democrat Dan McCready, who ran in the general election last year, said he plans to run for the Democratic nomination again.