North Carolina to Hold Congressional Primary After Race Tainted by Fraud

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

North Carolina voters on Tuesday will start the process of picking a new Republican candidate for Congress after state officials ordered a rerun of a November 2018 race marred by an absentee-ballot fraud scheme.

Ten Republican candidates and one Democrat are vying for the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives that has remained unfilled since an investigation found that a Republican political operative ran a scheme in which volunteers improperly collected, and sometimes filled in, absentee ballots.

The months-long scandal became an embarrassment to President Donald Trump’s Republican Party, which has accused Democrats without proof of encouraging voter fraud in races such as the 2016 presidential election.

Democrat Dan McCready appeared to lose to Republican Mark Harris by a slim margin before state officials said the election had been tainted. McCready is the sole Democrat contesting the re-run race; Harris is not running.

The Republican candidates on Tuesday’s ballot are state Senator Dan Bishop, Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing, former state Senator and Representative Fern Shubert; as well as Matthew Ridenhour, a former county commissioner, Chris Anglin, a Raleigh-based attorney, Leigh Brown, a realtor, Gary Dunn, Stevie Hull, Albert Lee Wiley Jr. and Kathie Day.

If no Republican candidate receives at least 30% of the votes on Tuesday, a second primary will be held in September for the candidates with the two highest numbers of votes. The seat represents a district of North Carolina that runs along the state’s southern border from Charlotte to near Fayetteville.

Democrats won a commanding 235-seat majority in the 435-member House of Representatives in November and the final result of the North Carolina race will not tip the balance of power.

The bipartisan state Board of Elections ordered a new vote in February after a four-day hearing, during which it heard evidence of what election officials called a well-funded campaign to tip the election by a political operative working for Harris.

During the hearing, Harris’ son said he had warned his father of potential illegal activity by one of his political operatives, Leslie McCrae Dowless. Witnesses testified that Dowless and his paid workers had collected incomplete absentee ballots and sometimes falsely signed as witnesses and filled in votes for contests left blank.

Dowless was charged with three felony counts of obstruction of justice, two counts of conspiring to commit obstruction of justice and two counts of possession of absentee ballots, according to court documents.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)

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