Mar 6, 2024 - Politics & Policy

N.C. Republican with ties to 2018 election fraud scandal wins congressional primary

North Carolina Republican Mark Harris responds to questions at a 2019 hearing about his involvement in an election fraud controversy

Mark Harris testified during a public evidentiary hearing regarding voting irregularities in N.C.'s 9th District on Feb. 21, 2019. Photo: Travis Long/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Here's a wild comeback: North Carolina Republican Mark Harris, who was at the center of an election fraud scandal over the 2018 midterms, has won the GOP nomination for the state's 8th Congressional District, AP projects.

Why it matters: Harris, a Baptist preacher, will be a favorite in November against Democrat Justin Dues in a safe Republican district where nearly 60% of voters supported Trump in 2020.

Flashback: Months after he claimed a narrow 2018 victory in the 9th District race, Harris gave up the seat amid allegations that a political operative he'd hired cooked up an absentee ballot-harvesting scheme in rural Bladen County.

  • The state's board of elections declined to certify the results late that November, then held an intense weeklong hearing in February 2019.
  • At its conclusion, Harris conceded that a new election should be called.

Between the lines: Harris called the scandal "manufactured" while campaigning this cycle. A Wake County district attorney decided not to prosecute him in 2020.

  • Harris has long denied having any knowledge that the operative, a chain-smoking Bladen County native named McCrae Dowless, was doing anything improper. In February, Harris told Charlotte news station WSOC that he "made a bad hire."
  • Dowless died of lung cancer in April 2022, and Harris spoke at his funeral via a video message.
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