‘It was not that important to him to win. His integrity, his bringing people to Christ, is more important to him personally…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Although North Carolina Republicans say “the ground is shifting” amid allegations of absentee-ballot fraud in the state’s 9th Congressional District, they continue to stand behind candidate Mark Harris and vouch for his integrity while embracing calls for a thorough investigation.
“We want people to be able to cast legal votes, and we want to run out corruption any way we can,” said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party on Chris Hayes’ MSNBC program Thursday.
The interview came as the investigation and national attention on the controversial race intensified. As it pursues what is currently a Dec. 21 deadline to investigate, the North Carolina State Board of Elections has issued subpoenas to the Harris campaign and to a now-dissolved independent contractor, Red Dome Group, which Harris paid nearly $430,000 for work in both the primary and general-election campaigns.
On Thursday, Harris’ Democratic opponent, Dan McCready, formally withdrew his election-night concession.
Democrat Rep. Nancy Pelosi, poised to assume the speaker role in the next U.S. House of Representatives, also indicated that she reserved the right to refuse to seat Harris under the current circumstances, in what is now the last uncertified Congressional race in the country out of 435 House seats.
Woodhouse told Hayes that was all the more reason to make sure the investigation was thorough and comprehensive.
“The innocent victims are the voters that cast illegal votes—the people who are not going to be represented in Congress—I know you’re concerned about that,” Woodhouse said.
“But it seems like U.S. House Democratic leadership has indicated they’re not going to seat Mr. Harris, so they’re unlikely to be unrepresented at the beginning of the term anyway,” he added. “So, let the investigation go, and let the facts emerge, and we will abide by the facts.”
The crisis first surfaced the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, when the NCSBE unexpectedly voted on an 11th-hour motion to delay certification of the race, prompting calls of foul-play from many on the Right.
Left-wing media such as MSNBC hopped on board after it became apparent that Republicans had been party to some measure of wrongdoing, with the revelation that a maverick get-out-the-vote worker in Bladen County, McCrae Dowless, may have illicitly collected hundreds of votes through ballot harvesting, in which a third party collects mail-in absentee ballots and submits them on behalf of voters.
After hiring people to collect unsealed absentee ballots—in some cases assisting the voters with filling out the ballots and serving as witnesses—Dowless’s operation allegedly mailed in only those that favored the candidates they were working for, including Harris and Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker.
Ironically, although illegal in North Carolina, the ballot-harvesting practice was recently legalized in California and likely played a role in the state’s overturning seven tightly contested GOP election night victories, whittling the state’s Republican representation to a mere seven of 53 total Congressional seats.
Another irony raised has been that Democrats, including North Carolina’s sitting governor, Democrat Roy Cooper, may also have engaged in and benefited from the same sort of activities. State Republicans have called on those allegations—and others stemming back several election cycles, since at least 2010—to be included in the current investigation.
Several state senators in the N.C. General Assembly criticized the elections board chairman, Joshua Malcolm, who said he has known for years about the ballot-fraud issues in Bladen County. The legislators said the NCSBE should have addressed it sooner, and called on Cooper to work with them in establishing an independent, non-partisan taskforce to take over the current investigation.
But despite the “taint” looming over the race—with the increasing likelihood that the outcome will be a district-wide re-vote—Republican leaders like Woodhouse have largely rallied behind Harris, a Baptist minister in the Charlotte area, and maintained that he had no knowledge of the practices being used by Dowless.
“I and all the party leadership know Mr. Harris—we know him to be an honorable, good man,” Woodhouse told Hayes on MSNBC.
“It is my belief … that people associated with the Harris campaign, consultants or whatever, would have had to mislead Mr. Harris, because he never would have been a part of it,” Woodhouse said. “It was not that important to him to win. His integrity, his bringing people to Christ, is more important to him personally.”
Despite the moral support, however, it remains unclear how much help the NCGOP will be in offering up a legal defense or financial support to the challenges Harris may face in defending his seat.
A 145-page post-election fundraising document filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission revealed that the Harris campaign still owed about $34,000 in payments to Red Dome for the Bladen County “get-out-the-vote” operations.