Dem McCready withdraws concession as election fraud claims hit North Carolina race

Democrat Dan McCready announced Thursday that he's withdrawing his concession in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District amid an investigation into potential election fraud.

"Today, I withdraw my concession to Mark HarrisMark HarrisGOP super PAC drops new TV ad in contested NC House race North Carolina elections chair resigns after joke relating cows to women NC operative charged with obstruction of justice, perjury over alleged ballot scheme MORE," McCready said in a video posted to Twitter while calling on his GOP opponent "to tell us exactly what he knew and when he knew it." 

McCready's move comes weeks after he conceded to Harris following the Nov. 6 election. McCready trails the Republican by 905 votes in the race to replace outgoing Rep. Robert PittengerRobert Miller PittengerBottom Line North Carolina reporter says there could be 'new crop' of GOP candidates in 9th Congressional District race North Carolina board calls for new election in contested House race MORE (R-N.C.).

But in the weeks since the midterm elections, the state's Board of Elections voted not to certify the election results as it continues to investigate allegations of electoral fraud and other voting irregularities related to absentee ballots.

 

The probe is centered on an unusually high number of absentee ballots requests in Bladen County as well as a high number of unreturned ballots, and canvassers who illegally collected ballots from a number of voters. 

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“Over the last week, we have seen the criminal activity come to light, and we have seen that my opponent Mark Harris has bankrolled this criminal activity,” McCready told Charlotte television station WSOC-TV on Thursday in announcing that he would withdraw his concession.

Republicans and Democrats in North Carolina remain divided over how to conduct an investigation into the allegations of widespread election fraud in one of the most closely divided House races in the country this cycle.

A trio of Republican state senators who represent parts of the 9th District asked Gov. Roy Cooper (D) on Thursday to create a bipartisan task force to probe claims that a contractor working for Harris illegally urged people to collect absentee ballots. 

Republican lawmakers said they lost confidence in the North Carolina Board of Elections, which decided not to certify the 9th District’s results and has opened an investigation.

Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., who worked as an independent contractor for Harris’s campaign, is at the center of the investigation.

Dowless, a Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor, has worked in local political circles for years. In the 1990s, he was convicted of fraud and felony perjury.

Dowless was named by a few absentee ballot witnesses who said they were paid by him to collect ballots.

Democrats, meanwhile, have accused Republicans of attempting to undermine the bipartisan Board of Elections and the existing investigation into the allegations.

The state Board of Elections recently voted 7-2 to hold an evidentiary hearing by Dec. 21. The board has issued subpoenas to Harris’s campaign and Red Dome Group, a political consulting firm that contracted Dowless.

In addition to the elections board, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman has opened a criminal investigation into Bladen County absentee ballots from the 2018 primary and general election as well as the 2016 election.

Freeman’s investigation has probed potential absentee ballot fraud by Dowless and two other groups, according to WSOC-TV.

In the aftermath of the fraud allegations, incoming House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOmar says US should reconsider aid to Israel Liberal Democrat eyes aid cuts to Israel after Omar, Tlaib denied entry Lawmakers blast Trump as Israel bars door to Tlaib and Omar MORE (D-Md.) has said the House could refuse to seat anyone from the 9th District until the probe is resolved.

Meanwhile, House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiJohnson eyes Irish border in Brexit negotiations Mueller report fades from political conversation Five key players in Trump's trade battles MORE (Calif.), who is aiming to become Speaker, said on Thursday that Democrats are closely monitoring the fraud allegations, but would call for a new election only if it’s impossible to determine the winner.

Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, said in an email that Republicans would be open to a new election if the state Board of Elections “can show a substantial likelihood” that the absentee ballot fraud could have changed the outcome of the election.

The state elections board has the authority to call for a new election, which would trigger a new general election with Harris, McCready and Libertarian candidate Jeff Scott.

The U.S. House can also call for a reset of the race, which would then prompt a new filing process, primary election and general election.

Updated at 6:30 p.m.