MINT HILL – Several dozen supporters of Republican Mark Harris held a rally in Mint Hill on Feb. 16 as the unofficial winner of the 9th Congressional District race prepared for this week’s hearing before the State Board of Elections in the disputed race.
The hearing began Feb. 18, and the state board of elections was still in session as of Feb. 20.
Harris, of Charlotte, defeated Democrat and Charlotte resident Dan McCready by 905 votes last November in a district that stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville. But the state board of elections has twice declined to certify his election because of alleged voting irregularities and possible absentee ballot fraud in Bladen and Robeson counties.
The Harris campaign has said it committed no wrongdoing and the number of ballots in question is not enough to sway the election. The McCready campaign alleges wrongdoing by a political operative hired by the Harris campaign and claims the number of disputed ballots was enough to sway the election.
When the hearing is complete, the state board of elections could certify Harris as the winner or call for a new election. They could also deadlock and that would put the disputed election in limbo.
Harris, who is still recovering from a recent illness and hospital stay, did not attend the rally in Mint Hill as he was resting for the hearing. Harris was scheduled to testify before the board on Feb. 20.
Harris’ wife, Beth, told supporters in Mint Hill that her husband has nearly recovered from the infection and was ready for the hearing.
“He is healing faster than the doctors expected,” Beth Harris said. “We have cooperated fully with the investigation because we feel that we have nothing to hide.”
Mecklenburg County Republican Party chairman Chris Turner said he expects the board will certify Harris as the winner.
“Mark has earned and he deserves this seat. Mark won this race,” Turner said. “Every county certified those results.”
Beth Harris told supporters the past several months have been stressful on the family. She had to turn over her phone and computer to the state board of elections to be analyzed.
“This has been the most trying time of my life,” Beth Harris said. “I have had days that I have been strong, and I have had days that I have been weak and have been a complete basket case. I have handed over my computer, my phone to be forensically analyzed for texts and emails from a subpoena that was so vague. I had no guarantee that those texts and emails would be kept confidential because this is not a court of law. This is a bureaucratic agency.”
During the investigation, Mark Harris spent eight days in the intensive care unit of a local hospital after he contracted an uncommon form of strep bacteria. Mark Harris, who stepped down as pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlotte to run for Congress full-time, originally thought he was suffering from the flu.
Beth Harris said the family has been overwhelmed by the support it has received from friends and supporters.
“I was a basket case when doctors rushed in and said, ‘things look weird with his liver, things look weird with his kidneys,” Beth Harris said. “We have been unemployed since September of 2017, except for my part-time job. We appreciate your prayers and your support that has meant so much. I am unable to express how much the support of so many has meant.”