Democrat McCready takes back concession in disputed 9th congressional district race

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In this November 7, 2018, file photo, Mark Harris speaks to the media during a news conference in Matthews, N.C.

A campaign lawyer said earlier this week that it wasn't aware of any illegal conduct in the 9th District race.

McCready had not commented until Thursday even as other state Democrats, as well as top Dems in the House of Representatives, called for a probe of the allegations and a new election that could again pit McCready against Harris and Libertarian Jeff Scott. The same day, the executive director of the North Carolina GOP, Dallas Woodhouse, announced that he would support a new election if an ongoing state investigation uncovered firm evidence of fraud.

"We're not ready to call for a new election yet", Woodhouse added, but that's still a long way from Woodhouse's position nine days ago.

Outgoing GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger, who lost to Harris in a May primary, acknowledged in an interview with Spectrum News North Carolina last week that "there's some pretty unsavory people, particularly in Bladen County, and I didn't have anything to do with them". Sources told the Post that the state GOP "did little to scrutinize the results", and focused instead on the general election.

Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes, according to the state's unofficial tally.

"What we know is the people down in Bladen County are scoundrels". "I think we have to let the board of elections come show their hand if they can show that this conceivably could have flipped the race in that neighborhood, we will absolutely support a new election".

It's hard to fault the paper's reasoning. But he and his colleagues were cautious about saying whether a new election is necessary.

On Monday, the Charlotte Observer reported that Leslie McCrae Dowless ― a man who worked as an "independent contractor" for Harris' campaign in Bladen County ― was possibly connected to suspicious discrepancies in absentee ballot totals that could have affected the Harris-McCready election.

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If the allegations are accurate, "this is the biggest absentee fraud in a generation or two in North Carolina", said Gerry Cohen, an election law expert and former longtime legislative staff attorney.

Most of the unreturned ballots belonged to African-American and Native American voters, the Observer reported.

Harris may not be the only Republican to have benefited from Dowless's work, either. The president raised the specter of fraud again this year, suggesting without evidence that people had donned disguises to vote a couple of times in midterm elections.

Dowless allegedly helped orchestrate a scheme to tamper with absentee ballots in Harris' favor.

However, he said that if the investigation shows that the outcome would not have been changed, Republican candidate Harris should be certified the victor. But in a historically ironic twist, McCrory pointed to a Democratic write-in campaign against Dowless to bolster his own claim that fraud had tainted the gubernatorial race.

Concerns about voter harvesting anxious state election officials so much that they sent a letter to every Bladen County address where a voter requested a mail-in ballot asking the voter to call them if someone else tried take the ballot or fill it out.

Voting restrictions became the central issue in Georgia's close gubernatorial race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, with Abrams accusing Kemp of abusing his office to cement his party's hold on power.

To use a highly technical term of art, North Carolina's Ninth Congressional District appears to be a mess. An election would take place well after the new session of Congress convenes January 3, likely creating a temporary vacancy.

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