Republican House candidate Mark Harris says he would back new election in North Carolina if fraud changed results

  • Republican pastor Mark Harris says he would support a new election in North Carolina's 9th District if the state finds alleged ballot irregularities affected the election result.
  • Harris leads Democratic candidate Dan McCready, who withdrew his concession Thursday, by 905 votes.
  • The state has not yet certified the election result as it assesses whether potential election fraud affected the outcome.
  • Harris denies any wrongdoing.
In this Nov. 7, 2018, file photo, Mark Harris speaks to the media during a news conference in Matthews, N.C. 
Chuck Burton | AP
In this Nov. 7, 2018, file photo, Mark Harris speaks to the media during a news conference in Matthews, N.C. 

The Republican candidate leading in a contested House race in North Carolina would support a new election if potential fraud altered the result, he said Friday.

In a video posted to Twitter, pastor Mark Harris said his campaign is "cooperating fully" with a state board of elections investigation into alleged absentee ballot irregularities. The Republican denied having knowledge of "any wrongdoing" in his North Carolina 9th District race against Democratic Marine veteran Dan McCready.

"I'm hopeful that this process will ultimately result in the certification of my election to Congress before the next House session begins," Harris said in the video. "However, if this investigation finds proof of illegal activity on either side, to such a level that it could have changed the outcome of the election, then I would wholeheartedly support a new election to ensure all voters have confidence in the results."

More than a month after the Nov. 6 election, the North Carolina State Board of Elections is assessing potential election fraud and has not certified the 9th District result. The board has to hold an evidentiary hearing by Dec. 21, and it can order another election if it determines that the vote irregularities materially affected the result.

Harris is not the first Republican to open the door to a new election in recent days. North Carolina Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse told NBC News on Thursday that he would support another election if state officials "can show a substantial likelihood" irregularities "could have changed the race."

McCready, who conceded the day after the election, withdrew his concession on Thursday. He claimed his opponent had been found "bankrolling criminal activity" and urged him to "tell the American people exactly what he knew and when he knew it."

McCready's campaign did not immediately respond to a request to comment on Harris' Friday statement.

Harris holds a 905-vote lead in the race. It is currently unclear whether the alleged absentee ballot irregularities were widespread enough to influence the election's outcome. Democrats gained a net 40 GOP-held U.S. House seats in last month's elections, and North Carolina's 9th District is the only race still outstanding.

In the district's Bladen County, Harris won 61 percent of absentee ballots, even though GOP voters asked for only 19 percent of those ballots. The county had an absentee ballot request rate of 7.5 percent of registered voters, compared with about 3 percent in most counties, The New York Times reported.

Reports have also outlined potential irregularities in Harris' tight GOP primary win over Rep. Robert Pittenger in May. A Pittenger spokesperson declined to comment on the election.

The state board of elections has identified electioneer McCrae Dowless as a person of interest in possible absentee ballot misconduct, according to Charlotte TV station WSOC. The outlet previously reported that two women said Dowless paid them to pick up voters' absentee ballots.

The board did not immediately respond to CNBC's request to comment on the WSOC report about Dowless. CNBC has been unable to reach Dowless, but he has denied any wrongdoing, according to The Charlotte Observer.

It is unclear how closely tied Harris' campaign was to Dowless' activities. But it paid Red Dome Group, where Dowless was a contractor, $428,911 through Sept. 30, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

On Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters that the chamber could take the "extraordinary step" of calling for a new election if assessing a winner proves impossible. Pelosi, the favorite to become speaker in January, said the House "retains the right to decide who is seated."

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