North Carolina schedules new election for last undecided 2018 race

Posted at 5:43 PM, Mar 04, 2019

North Carolina's 9th Congressional District could elect its new representative in early September, the State Board of Elections announced Monday, in what should be the end of the last undecided contest from the 2018 midterm elections.

The state will hold its primary election on May 14. The GOP candidate who ran in the November 2018 election, Mark Harris, has decided not to run again, citing health concerns.

If no candidate in the primary earns more than 30% of the vote, a runoff will be held on September 10, with a general election on November 5. However, if a second primary is not needed, the general election will be moved up to September 10.

Monday's announcement formally begins the new campaign, and the filing period for new candidates is March 11 to March 15.

Democrat Dan McCready, who ran against Harris in the original election, has announced that he will run again for the seat. He is likely to face the winner of the GOP primary.

The redo was called after Harris was at the center of an election fraud scandal, in which concerns were raised about irregular and compromised absentee ballots from a consultant, Leslie McCrae Dowless, who worked for a firm hired by Harris.

Dowless, a convicted felon hired by a consulting firm paid by the Harris campaign, led a loosely connected group involved in questionable absentee ballot activity. Dowless personally turned in 592 of the 1,341 absentee ballot requests in Bladen County, North Carolina -- and only 684 absentee ballots were ultimately cast in the county.

Dowless was arrested last week and charged with felonious obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and possession of absentee ballot, in relation to absentee ballot irregularities in the 2016 general election and 2018 primary election. Activities related to the 2018 general election remain under investigation, according to Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.

Dowless has maintained he's done nothing wrong.

Harris claimed he was unaware of any wrongdoing, but emotional testimony from his son in February revealed that the candidate had been warned about Dowless' history of questionable ballot activity before he was hired.

During the hearing, Harris called for a new election and maintained that he did not have knowledge of any illegal activity but recognized that the public's confidence in the election had been undermined.

North Carolina is also preparing for a special election in its 3rd Congressional District. The seat opened after the death of longtime Republican Rep. Walter Jones last month .