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Democrat withdraws concession in N.C. race amid fraud investigation

By Allen Cone
Democrat withdraws concession in N.C. race amid fraud investigation
Dan McCready, a Democratic candidate for a U.S. House race in south-central North Carolina, has withdrawn his concession amid allegations of election fraud. Photo courtesy Dan McCready for NC/Twitter

Dec. 6 (UPI) -- A Democratic candidate for a U.S. House seat in south-central North Carolina on Thursday withdrew his concession last month amid allegations of election fraud.

"Over the last week, we have seen the criminal activity come to light, and we have seen that my opponent Mark Harris has bankrolled this activity," Dan McCready told WSOC-TV about the race for the seat that's been held by a Republican since 1963.

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"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, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and solar energy entrepreneur, trailed the Republican, a local pastor, by 905 votes in unofficial returns in the state's 9th District, which stretches from central Charlotte to rural eastern portions of the state.

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The North Carolina State Board of Elections has twice declined to certify Harris' victory and plans to hold an evidentiary hearing in the case this month. The Wake County district attorney has also launched an investigation.

This week, Harris has been attending orientation events for incoming members of Congress, but House Majority Leader-designate Steny Hoyer said Democrats will refuse to seat Harris until "substantial" questions about the integrity of the election are resolved.

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In a video tweeted out from his campaign account Thursday evening, McCready said, "I didn't serve overseas in the Marine Corps just to come back home and watch politicians and career criminals attack our democracy."

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Last week, questions arose about absentee ballots in Bladen and Robeson counties. The only people allowed to legally drop off an absentee ballot are voters, near relatives or legal guardians.

McCrae Dowless, a political operative, allegedly has led a network of people who collected absentee-by-mail ballots en masse, which is forbidden under state law, according to several sworn affidavits

Datesha Montgomery, 27, of Elizabethtown, claimed in a sworn affidavit that in early October, a woman "came by and asked for my absentee ballot."

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"She states that [the woman] was collecting peoples ballots in the area," Montgomery said in the affidavit. "She had just come from another ladies house. I filled out two names on the ballot, Hakeem Brown for Sheriff and Vice Rozier for board of education. She stated the others were not important. I gave her the ballot and she said she would finish it herself. I signed the ballot and she left. It was not sealed up at any time."

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On Thursday, top state Republican officials said they could support a new election only if the board uncovers "an overwhelming amount of evidence" that fraud changed the outcome of the vote or that "there is a substantial likelihood" it could have been changed.

Before withdrawing his concession, McCready had only called the allegations in Bladen County "troubling." He carried six of the eight counties in the district, including Charlotte's Mecklenburg County.

Absentee ballots made up a much larger share of the vote in Bladen County, said Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College. It's where Harris won those votes by a significantly higher margin than any other county in the district.

Robert Pittenger, who has represented the district since January 2013, lost to Harris in the Republican primary.

Harris posted on Twitter last week, "Make no mistake, I support any efforts to investigate allegations of irregularities and/or voter fraud, as long as it is fair and focuses on all political parties. There is absolutely no public evidence that there are enough ballots in question to affect the outcome of this race."

If the House seat in North Carolina flips, the Democrats will pick up 41 seats after being the minority party. They will take office in January.

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