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In NC's disputed 9th District election, Republican incumbent wants to subpoena his Democratic challenger

Ely Portillo, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Political News

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A hearing on North Carolina's disputed 9th District election could finally shed more light on the only undecided congressional race in the U.S., and Republican Mark Harris wants his Democratic opponent, Dan McCready, to testify.

The newly appointed, five-member N.C. Board of Elections is scheduled to start the hearing Feb. 18 in Raleigh. The board is expected to vote at the conclusion of the meeting on whether to certify the election results -- which showed Harris with a 905-vote lead over McCready -- or order a new election.

In a letter to the board this week, Harris' attorneys named 20 people they're requesting subpoenas be issued for to compel their attendance and testimony at the hearing, including McCready. In a previous letter to the board, McCready asked the board to subpoena Harris, but only to compel his attendance, not testimony.

The bitterly fought race was thrown into disarray in November, when the previous board (which was dissolved in an unrelated legal dispute) refused to certify the results in the 9th District. Allegations of illegal absentee ballot-harvesting by McCrae Dowless, a Bladen County political operative working for the Harris campaign, soon surfaced, with some voters saying they had turned over their ballots to people they didn't know.

The Harris campaign is also asking the Board of Elections to release its investigative report to the public before the hearing, between Feb. 13 and 15. Briefs from both sides are due in the case by Feb. 12.

David Freedman, an attorney for the Harris campaign, said that so far they have not received any details about what the investigation has uncovered, and that they should have the chance to review those before the hearing.

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"From a due process perspective and a fundamental fairness perspective, we should know what the investigation turned up," said Freedman. "At this point there's no specific notice as to what specific allegations there are we need to defend."

A Board of Elections representative could not immediately be reached to answer if they are considering releasing the results of their investigative report before the hearing. The board was briefed on the investigation in a four-hour closed-session meeting Thursday.

McCready campaign spokesman Aaron Simpson said that regardless of the subpoena request, actions associated with the Harris campaign touched off the investigation.

"Unlike Mr. Harris, we're happy to assist in this investigation in any way we can. There's one campaign under investigation here, that's the campaign belonging to Mark Harris," Simpson said.

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