North Carolina’s Mark Harris gets a second chance to go to Congress after absentee ballot scandal

Mar 6, 2024, 12:20 PM

FILE - Mark Harris speaks to the media during a news conference, Nov. 7, 2018, in Matthews, N.C. No...

FILE - Mark Harris speaks to the media during a news conference, Nov. 7, 2018, in Matthews, N.C. North Carolina voters in the primary election on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, were choosing nominees for president and a host of other positions, from governor and attorney general to seats in the U.S. House — including Harris' race in the 8th District — the General Assembly and state judgeships. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

The Rev. Mark Harris has won the Republican nomination for a U.S. House seat in North Carolina, giving the pastor a second chance to go to Washington after a 2018 absentee ballot scandal.

Harris just barely crossed the 30% threshold to avoid a possible runoff in the six-candidate race in the state’s 8th District, narrowly defeating political newcomer and Union County farmer Allan Baucom.

Harris will face Democrat Justin Dues in November in a district running from Charlotte east to Lumberton that was drawn to heavily favor Republicans.

Harris thought he was on his way to the U.S. House in 2018 when he appeared to have won the general election by just under 1,000 votes. But an investigation found a political operative working for him gathered hundreds of absentee ballots that were either blank or partially filled out and turned them in.

While the investigation led to charges against several people and some convictions, Harris wasn’t charged, cooperated with investigators and called for a new election. The State Board of Elections agreed. Harris did not run again, however, and the seat was won by Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop. Bishop decided not to run for reelection this year and is his party’s nominee for state attorney general.

After filing to run this year, Harris called the issue a “manufactured scandal.” and said he now truly understands the “extremes Democrats will go to in order to advance their woke, leftist agenda.”

In the 13th District, Smithfield attorney Kelly Daughtry and former federal prosecutor Brad Knott of Raleigh appeared headed for a runoff after Daughtry failed to reach the 30% mark needed to win outright.

The other possible U.S. House runoff is in the 6th District. Blue Cross and Blue Shield lobbyist and political newcomer Addison McDowell and second-place finisher and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker outpaced four other Republicans in the currently Democratic district.

Under state law, the second-place finishers would have to request a second election in writing. Any runoffs would be held on May 14.

Tuesday’s primary elections initiated big changes in North Carolina’s congressional delegation. Three districts are expected to flip from Democrats to Republicans in the November election after the state’s Republican-controlled General Assembly redrew voting maps fashioned by judges for the 2022 elections.

In addition, Republicans Bishop and U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry decided not to run again, opening their Republican-dominated districts to new representation.

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North Carolina’s Mark Harris gets a second chance to go to Congress after absentee ballot scandal