BLADEN COUNTY, N.C. - In a filing made late Thursday night to the Federal Election Commission, the campaign of Republican Mark Harris of North Carolina, which has come under fire for possible absentee ballot fraud in the 2018 elections, listed a debt of $34,310 to an outside GOP consulting group which was tasked with absentee ballot work in Bladen County, the epicenter of fraud allegations in the race for North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District.
The submission, made at 10:12 pm on Thursday night by the Harris campaign, was the first public admission by the candidate that he had hired the Red Dome Group specifically to do work for him in Bladen County; Red Dome reportedly hired McCrae Dowless, the local political operative who seems to have been in charge of an illegal absentee ballot operation which helped Harris.
Channel 9 reporter Joe Bruno uncovered that women in Bladen County said Dowless paid them to illegally collect absentee ballots.
News of the filing was first reported by the New York Times, further stirring the controversy over the fate of Harris, who defeated Democrat Dan McCready by just 905 votes in November.
Sources also told Channel 9 on Friday that the FBI is now involved in the election fraud investigation, and that the SBI is on the ground in Bladen and Robeson counties investigating as well.
On Thursday, Harris' opponent, Dan McCready, withdrew his concession in the race.
“As of today, I am withdrawing my concession to Mark Harris, and furthermore, I call on Mark Harris to tell the people exactly what he knew and when he knew it,” McCready said.
The fast-moving events have led Democrats to openly say that Harris may not be seated when the 116th Congress convenes on January 3, 2019.
“The House still retains the right to decide who is seated,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who expects to be Speaker in the next Congress.
“As you know, it’s not just the Democrats who have a problem with how it went in North Carolina, the Republicans have a problem, too, because it affected their primary election,” Pelosi added.
A look at the numbers from the GOP primary in North Carolina show that Harris won by an extraordinary margin in the absentee-by-mail results, with an edge of 437-17 over Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC).
In recent days, Pittenger has raised more questions about the primary, as he has indicated his concern about what went on in Bladen County.
“There’s some pretty unsavory people out, particularly in Bladen County,” Pittenger said in a local TV interview. “And I didn’t have anything to do with them.”
It’s not clear when the North Carolina Board of Elections will take another step in the Harris-McCready election.
Investigators have been seen in the field interviewing people who collected absentee ballots for Dowless, who was working for Red Dome on behalf of Harris.
The board said it would hold a hearing by December 21.
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