Tag: mark harris
Mark Harris

North Carolina Republican Whose 2018 Victory Proved Fraudulent Runs Again

Republican Mark Harris, who has run unsuccessfully for political office and has a documented history of sexist, homophobic, antisemitic, and Islamophobic comments, announced on Tuesday that he will run for an open North Carolina U.S. House seat in 2024.

In a nearly five-minute announcement video, Harris, whose 2018 House race victory was overturned due to evidence of election fraud, baselessly accused Democrats of having “manufactured a scandal to steal the election” from him five years ago and of stealing the 2020 election from President Donald Trump.

“Well, in 2024, President Trump is making a comeback. And so am I,” Harris tells viewers. “I feel called to serve my nation and I’m willing to make the sacrifice needed to do it.”

According to theCharlotte Observer, Harris plans to run in North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District. Incumbent Republican Rep. Dan Bishop is running for state attorney general.

The former president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Harris, who is the senior pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Mooresville, North Carolina, defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger in the 2018 Republican primary in the state’s 9th Congressional District, after failed campaigns for U.S. Senate in 2014 and U.S. House in 2016, but his general election victory was overturned.

Initial results had shown Harris narrowly defeating Democratic nominee Dan McCready, but a state investigation found evidence that campaign operative McCrae Dowless had illegally collected vote-by-mail ballots and had altered or destroyed those that were not Harris votes. The state board of elections did not certify the results, and a new special election was ordered. Harris denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the scheme, though his own son testified before the board of elections that he had warned his father about Dowless and his methods. Harris did not opt to run in the 2019 special election for the seat, citing medical issues.

On his 2024 campaign site, Harris’ campaign is already touting his anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ views:

Mark fervently believes in the sanctity of all human life, from conception to natural end. A pivotal figure in the pro-life movement, he asserts that every life is invaluable. Mark is also a stalwart defender of traditional family values, having led the charge for the 2012 marriage amendment and consistently advocating for measures that uphold the foundations of our families.

He has a long record of opposition to women’s rights and claims, “God instructs all Christian wives to submit to their husband.”

In a 2013 sermon on “God’s plan for biblical womanhood,” first flagged in 2018 by the progressive super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, he argued that a “woman of valor” is created to be “a supporter, a nurturer, a caregiver,” and complained:

You and I know that in our culture today, girls are taught from grade school, that we tell them that what is most honorable in life is a career, and their ultimate goal in life is simply to be able to grow up and be independent of anyone or anything. We tell young girls to not be connected humanly as they are designed to do naturally, but instead disconnected, so as to be able to do anything they want any time they want. But nobody has seemed to ask the question that I think is critically important to ask: Is that a healthy pursuit for society? Is that the healthiest pursuit for our homes? Is that the healthiest pursuit for our children? Is that the healthiest pursuit for the sexes in our generation?

(Disclosure: The American Independent Foundation is a partner organization of American Bridge 21st Century.)

In other sermons, he complained about the legalization of no-fault divorce, falsely said that most people who make the “decision” to be LGBTQ+ do so due to having experienced abuse, and claimed that legal abortion is to blame for mass shootings.

In 2018, CNN KFile reported that he had given sermons calling Islam dangerous and the work of Satan and arguing that Middle East peace required that all Jews and Muslims convert to Christianity. “There will never be peace in Jerusalem until the day comes that every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” he said in 2011.

As a candidate in 2014 and 2018, Harris called for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education. He proposed in 2014 that Social Security benefits be reduced for future retirees who were then under the age of 50.

According to the Cook Political Report, North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District is solidly Republican.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

New Election Fraud Charges Filed Against NC GOP Operative

New Election Fraud Charges Filed Against NC GOP Operative

A long-running election fraud saga took another turn Tuesday when North Carolina prosecutors filed several new felony charges against Republican political operative Leslie McCrae Dowless.

Dowless, who helped mastermind a ballot tampering scheme in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, faces two counts of felony obstruction of justice, and single counts of illegal possession of absentee ballots, conspiracy to obstruct justice, perjury, and solicitation to commit perjury.

These charges are separate from the other seven charges he was indicted on in February. Those charges related only to the 2016 general election and the 2018 primary. The new charges are the first ones to come out of the 2018 general election.

House of Representatives GOP candidate Mark Harris hired Dowless as a consultant for the 2018 midterm race despite the fact that he’d been warned Dowless had a history of past election fraud.

While working for Harris, Dowless allegedly engaged in widespread absentee ballot fraud. Seven other people were also charged, but the indictment alleges that Dowless was the mastermind, “instructing his co-conspirators to sign certifications that falsely stated they had seen a voter vote by absentee ballot,” and then mailing in absentee ballots for people who didn’t send it in themselves.

In this fashion, absentee ballots that should not have been counted were. Earlier allegations involved questions as to whether Dowless also oversaw the illegal discarding of absentee ballots, but it is unclear if Tuesday’s indictment is meant to encompass that as well.

The fraud was working for a while. Harris was up by about 900 votes until the state overturned the election results amid an investigation into Dowless’ actions on behalf of Harris. This damaged Harris enough that he’s not going to be the GOP candidate in the new election this fall.

The GOP — which is usually so eager to insist voter fraud is a massive problem — has been conspicuously silent here. The head of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) vaguely tried to blame Democrats. Trump pivoted to complaining about voting in California.

State and federal authorities are both still investigating, so things could get even worse for Dowless — and perhaps for the North Carolina GOP — depending on what is unearthed.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

North Carolina Republicans Are Suffering An Identity Crisis

North Carolina Republicans Are Suffering An Identity Crisis

All eyes will be on North Carolina next year, when the Republican Party holds its 2020 convention in Charlotte to nominate President Donald Trump for a second term. In truth, though, the state has been the center of attention for a while because of the actions of party members — and the gaze has not been kind.

The North Carolina GOP realizes it has a problem, quite a few of them, and is busily trying to recover. But what’s the best path as the party tries to regain the trust of voters in a state that is a crucial battleground, one where independents are an important part of any winning coalition, and where millennials and Generation Z voters are fickle?

Standing firmly with the president, who won in 2016, will certainly solidify the base. For those voters, party and presidential loyalty might calm any doubts about scandals and missteps. But what about those still making up their minds?

One step for Republicans was electing a new party chair, lawyer Michael Whatley of Gastonia, to replace outgoing chairman Robin Hayes, indicted on bribery charges. Hayes had given up many of his day-to-day duties and had said he would not run for re-election; he and three co-defendants have pleaded not guilty.

On Whatley’s résumé is his role as a member of George W. Bush’s Florida recount team in 2000. That’s an interesting credential considering another of the state party’s challenges — charges of election fraud concerning the counting and collection of absentee ballots in North Carolina’s 9th District last fall. An operative for what looked to be winning GOP candidate Mark Harris has been charged, and a special election is next between Democrat Dan McCready and current Republican candidate Dan Bishop, who won the spot in a primary redo.

The playbook so far follows the Trump example of trying to move past old scandals quickly. Hayes left to positive comments on his strengthening the GOP’s power in the state. But the party’s current position is not quite as solid as it had been. Democrat Roy Cooper sits in the governor’s mansion, and though Republicans are still in the majority in both the House and Senate in Raleigh, they lost their supermajority in 2018, so they can no longer easily override every gubernatorial veto.

That scenario played out after Cooper vetoed a “Born Alive Abortion Survivors Act,” which would have penalized medical professionals for allowing a survivor of an abortion to die. Cooper had characterized the bill as unnecessary, as current legislation already protects those survivors, with most Democrats agreeing that the act would result in government interference in complicated medical situations and the doctor-patient relationship. Cooper’s veto held.

The situation is both complicated and very simple, with the North Carolina voter split mirroring the urban-rural divide across the country. In 2018, Republicans in the state suffered major losses in dense counties and big cities. For example, Democrats swept the county commissioner races in Mecklenburg County, Charlotte’s home.

Looking at the landscape of the population and voting preferences in North Carolina cities, the new GOP leadership has yet again promised more minority outreach, with appeals to family-oriented and faith issues. “Their urban outreach is zero,” Derek Partee, an African American and former vice chair of the 12th District GOP, said in The Charlotte Observer. “There isn’t a person of color in leadership positions.”

Because of this track record, characterized by criticism not just from political opponents but also from African Americans within the party, the latest professed efforts resembled parody or came off as insincere. Voters, particularly those who are poor, young, elderly and African American, have hardly forgotten GOP gerrymandering, now being fought in the courts, and repeated efforts to pass voter-ID restrictions.

The ambivalence about outreach is similar to the national Republican reset that wasn’t, with Trump’s often race-based appeals quieting the post-Barack Obamasoul-searching the GOP promised.

The re-election campaign of GOP Sen. Thom Tillis shows the back-and-forth of coming up with a winning strategy. Wary of a challenger from the right, Tillis is trying to show as little daylight between him and the president as possible, while his office churns out releases showing a more bipartisan side, listing collaborations with Democratic colleagues. (This week, it included presiding with Sen. Chris Coons over a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the state of patent eligibility in America.)

But the uncertain nature of the state means Democrats aren’t exactly in the clear. Cooper’s veto of the “Born Alive” bill might hurt him, despite supportive voters afraid that a bill like that would pave the way for abortion laws as restrictive as those being passed in other Southern states. Opposing the move are pro-life activists and voters, and politicians such as Bishop, who is accusing Democratic opponents of endorsing “infanticide.” North Carolina is still part of the Bible Belt, with deeply held religious beliefs informing the political choices of some voters.

Will the Republican rebranding in North Carolina work in time for a Trump repeat victory in 2020? The results in the September special election in the 9th District, tainted by gerrymandering that still favors the party, may provide only part of the answer.

More likely, even after Republicans arrive next year to party in a Democratic city where the mayor has had to defend her choice to welcome them, no one party will have all the answers.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. On June 11, she received a 2019 Dateline Award for excellence in journalism from the D.C. pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

IMAGE: Mark Harris, who stepped aside as Republican nominee in the NC-9 following exposure of a vote-rigging scandal that involved GOP operatives in his campaign.

North Carolina Election Scandal To Conclude With ‘Battle Of The Dans’

North Carolina Election Scandal To Conclude With ‘Battle Of The Dans’

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

After an election fraud scandal, North Carolina Republicans lost a House candidate. After an indictment and questions about possible bribery, the state GOP lost its chair.

But all that didn’t stop a gaggle of Republicans from vying for the chance to run for a House seat that, thanks to gerrymandering, still favors their party — that is, of course, if voters stay interested in a special election that now will be decided on September 10, if everything goes as planned.

Whatever happens, the race has offered a national blueprint for what voters will see in 2020, with the majority of Republicans clinging close to Donald Trump and trying to brand Democrats as far to the left as imagination allows. Meanwhile, Democrats proclaim their independence and ability to stand up to the president and his bending of constitutional norms while doing the other business of Congress and helping constituents.

In North Carolina’s 9th District, state Sen. Dan Bishop avoided a runoff by taking close to 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s GOP primary, which featured a scrum of candidates whose primary mission was showing who was most loyal to Trump and his policies.

Bishop will next face Democrat Dan McCready, the former Marine who ran unopposed in his primary, and two third-party candidates.

McCready was the Democratic nominee for the seat last fall when he at first appeared to have narrowly lost to Republican Mark Harris. An investigation of that election found irregularities and possible illegal activities regarding absentee ballots cast on behalf of Harris, a former Baptist pastor, and a do-over was ordered. Citing health issues, Harris bowed out of the special election.

In a campaign that looked to the general, Bishop of Mecklenburg County broadcast TV ads that tried to link McCready with Democrats in Washington, such as the right’s favorite villain, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Expect to see his label for them, “clowns,” pop up again through the summer.

McCready’s team has labeled efforts to make him a part of some supposed Washington left-wing agenda as ridiculous, pointing to his pledges to work across the aisle. He also cited his military experience as proof of his ability to work with folks from different backgrounds. He’s been accused of being fuzzy on the details of his own positions, a charge sure to reappear between now and September.

The 9th District race drew national money, on behalf of different candidates. In primary debates, though, when it came to policy, the Republicans were emphatically on the same page. To answer the problem of gun violence, especially relevant in a state still mourning those killed and injured in a shooting at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the candidates’ solutions were more guns, in the hand of the “good guys” and increased mental health services.

Stony Rushing, a county commissioner in Union County, which also contains huge chunks of voters in the circuitous district, portrayed the scandal that brought down Harris as a hit job. (Harris had endorsed his candidacy.) The gun range owner emphasized gun rights and his pro-life credentials in the race, and landed in second place.

Bishop is the proud sponsor of North Carolina’s infamous “bathroom bill,” or HB2, which required people, in public buildings, to use bathrooms that matched the gender on their birth certificates. (The law has since been repealed.) He would like to move on from that legislation, which drove businesses and entertainment and sporting events from North Carolina before it was changed.

But McCready is reminding voters of that bill and the negative national and international attention it brought. And North Carolina Democrats won’t let anyone forget the scandal that caused the special election, which brought more negative attention to the state.

Yet Bishop’s HB2 stance might resonate with the GOP base. That’s important, as this race ultimately will be decided on turnout and passion. The September general election, though it will be closely watched, will clash with a new school year and more pressing concerns of those seeking a rest from politics. Democrats no doubt were hoping for a runoff, which would have pushed the general election to Nov. 5, coinciding with municipal elections in Charlotte, a heavily Democratic city.

No matter how low the turnout, the battle of the Dans will certainly preview 2020 races across the country, with Republicans trying to take down those first-term Democrats who won last fall in GOP-leaning districts, many of which Trump won in 2016, by portraying them as extreme. Some of those Democrats have already tried to insulate themselves from that line of attack, joining together to proclaim their independence and service to districts they represent.

Trump loyalty as a strategy in North Carolina, a politically divided state whose blue cities are constantly at odds with more conservative rural and suburban areas, is not a sure thing, though it makes more sense in congressional races, with gerrymandered districts being challenged in the courts.

Trump won North Carolina in 2016, yet Democrats wistfully remember President Barack Obama’s narrow win in 2008 and his narrow loss to Mitt Romney in 2012. So they have hope, though when Washington Democrats act cautiously in order not to scare away moderate Democrats, one of the places they are thinking about is North Carolina.

Though North Carolina’s embarrassingly delayed 9th District race failed to excite many voters Tuesday — turnout was less than 10 percent — expect to see copycat campaigns in a 2020 election season that will make 2016 look tame by comparison.

Mary C. Curtis is a columnist for Roll Call. An award-winning journalist, she has worked at The New York TimesThe Baltimore SunThe Charlotte Observer, and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

IMAGE: Dan McCready, who won the Democratic nomination in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District on Tuesday.