UNION COUNTY, N.C. - Union County commissioners passed a resolution calling on the state board of elections to certify Republican Mark Harris as the winner of the contentious District 9 race.
Commissioner Stony Rushing introduced the resolution. His major concern is the 9th District will have no representation when the new Congress is sworn in. He wants the state board to show its hand and produce more evidence.
“It is not that this is a game between Democrats and Republicans. This is a game where Union County and other counties in this area are going to lose (by) not having representation in Congress,” Rushing said. “If Mark Harris has done anything wrong in this I would be shocked. I will put my reputation on Mark Harris' that he has not done anything illegal in this.”
The resolution says, “The action of the North Carolina State Board of Elections is harming the citizens of Union County, North Carolina through their uncertainty of representation in the United States House of Representatives in the 116th Congress beginning January 3rd 2019.”
The commission is composed of five Republicans. One commissioner was absent. One commissioner, Jerry Simpson, voted to oppose it.
Harris, a Republican, narrowly beat Democrat Dan McCready in the election, but his victory is in question.
For weeks, Channel 9 has been investigating allegations of absentee ballot fraud in Bladen County.
Two women told Channel 9 they were paid by McCrae Dowless to pick up absentee ballots. This is illegal in North Carolina. Dowless has been identified as a person of interest by the NCSBE. Dowless worked for Red Dome, a political consulting firm hired by the Harris campaign.
Three sources told The Washington Post that Harris personally made the decision to hire Dowless despite warnings about his unusual tactics.
Commissioner Jerry Simpson said that, while he is a strong Harris supporter, he cannot support the resolution.
“I put my hand on the Bible and swore an oath to defend the Constitution and support every citizen in Union County,” Simpson said.
An evidentiary hearing is planned for Jan. 11, which means there will likely be no representation on Jan. 3 when new members of Congress are sworn in.
The office of the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives will take over for constituent requests. The clerk can rehire U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger's staff to assist.
The hearing will be held at 10 a.m. in the courtroom of the North Carolina State Bar in Raleigh
Staffers and attorneys for candidates will have the opportunity to present and cross-examine witnesses.
In addition to the 9th Congressional District race, two Bladen County races and one Robeson County race have not been certified.
Commission chairman calls District 9 investigation a "political assassination" of Harris
Richard Helms, the chairman of the Union County commission, said it comes down to a few things: taxpayer money, representation in Congress and what he called a political assassination against Mark Harris.
(Richard Helms, chairman of the Union County commission)
Helms told Channel 9 that if the state decides on a new election, it would cost Union County alone about $100,000 of taxpayer money just from opening polling places, setting up equipment and hiring people to run polling places.
“That’s an impact on the budget that could take away from projects that we truly have needs," Helms said.
Helms said the issue is not about partisan politics.
"It’s an equality issue more than anything else,” Helms said. “It’s amazing that all the other political offices in [Bladen County] were certified, but yet they want to pick out one, one particular issue.”
However, other races in the state were not finalized by the elections board. In addition to the District 9 Congressional race, a Bladen County Soil and Water seat, a Bladen County Commission seat and a race in Robeson County were not certified.
The state’s bipartisan elections board delayed finalizing the election results on Nov. 27, citing "claims of irregularities and fraudulent activities related to absentee by-mail voting and potentially other matters in the 9th Congressional District contest."
In the meantime, the current congressman for District 9, Robert Pittenger, announced he will continue discussions internationally next year involving counterterrorism efforts and cybersecurity.
The state board will hold an evidentiary hearing on the results of the District 9 race on Jan. 11, 2019.
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