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North Carolina GOP ‘fully’ supports new election if inquiry shows fraud

POLITICO logo POLITICO 12/6/2018 By Zach Montellaro
a person wearing a suit and tie: Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris leads by 905 votes in the current ballot count, but the state board of elections has declined to certify the results and has instead opened an investigation into absentee ballot irregularities. © AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris leads by 905 votes in the current ballot count, but the state board of elections has declined to certify the results and has instead opened an investigation into absentee ballot irregularities.

The executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party said Thursday that the GOP would support a new election in North Carolina's 9th District if alleged fraud in the district was shown to have "changed the race."

The allegations have focused on an independent contractor who worked for Republican Mark Harris' campaign against Democrat Dan McCready in one of the closest House races in the country.

Harris leads McCready by 905 votes in the current ballot count, but the state board of elections has declined to certify the results and has instead opened an investigation into absentee ballot irregularities.

"To sum it up, we think the Board of Elections should hold a public hearing and fully lay out the facts," Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, said in a statement to POLITICO. "If they can show a substantial likelihood it could have changed the race, then we fully would support a new election."

Woodhouse also said in the statement that if the state board "can show with certainty that the outcome could NOT have been changed," Harris' victory should be certified while investigations continued. He also signaled that the party would not oppose a "short delay on the question of certification" if the investigation was inconclusive.

The comments marked a change of emphasis for Woodhouse, who previously had called on the board to quickly certify the results. Woodhouse told CNN that he was so upset after watching the network’s coverage of the alleged fraud that he vomited.

The growing possibility of a special election has grabbed the attention of both parties' House campaign committees. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee already has senior staffers and attorneys on the ground in the district.

“The bottom line is this, if there proves to be fraud, then there must be consequences,” new DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) said in a statement Tuesday. “The voters of North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District should expect nothing less.”

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), the new chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that party lawyers were monitoring the district and briefing him.

“It seemed to me the worst case was you had another primary and a general. And we’re going to plan for the best and if we get the worst, we’ll deal with it,” he told National Journal’s Hotline.

The election investigation is focusing on the work of a contractor, McCrae Dowless, hired by Harris' political consulting firm, Red Dome Group. Dowless has been accused of running an operation that collected and filled out absentee ballots from voters, which is against state law.

A spokesperson for the state board of elections told WSOC that subpoenas have been issued for Harris’ campaign and Red Dome.

Red Dome Group has many political clients, including the state party and the 2016 Republican convention, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) indicated that the House may not seat Harris if there are outstanding questions remaining, though the question might be moot if the state board of elections does not certify the results.

“If there is what appears to be a very substantial question on the integrity of the election, clearly we would oppose Mr. Harris being seated until that is resolved,” Hoyer said on Tuesday.

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