The headline in the News & Observer today notes that Dan McCready wants a new election. Of course he does. That’s not exactly news. The question, though, is whether or not he gets one.
The State Board of Elections meets today and tomorrow to determine how to handle the mess in the 9thCongressional District. Republican Mark Harris finished election night with 905 vote lead and wants the board to certify his election despite clear irregularities in mail-in absentee ballots in both Bladen and Robeson Counties. Harris contends not enough ballots are tainted to change the outcome of the election. McCready argues both that we don’t know exactly how widespread the fraud is and, besides, that’s not the standard for a new election anyway. They say the process is so tainted that the fairness of the entire election is in doubt.
For the board to call for a new election, they need four votes of a board made up of three Democrats and two Republicans. To certify Harris, they need three votes. In other words, at least one board member will need to cross party lines for either scenario. That said, the US House has the ultimate authority for seating members and they aren’t going to admit Harris to Congress.
Over the last decade, Republicans have changed the rules of governing. In today’s politics, there’s no longer attempts to follow norms, and fairness seems like a quaint virtue. There’s only winning. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell essentially sealed Harris’ fate when he decided that Merrick Garland wouldn’t get a hearing for the Supreme Court and instead held the seat open until after the 2016 presidential election.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will play by these new rules. If Republicans are going to take the 9th District seat, they’ll have to win it in a special election. Republicans, for their part, might back Harris in his bid to get certified, but they’ll throw him under the bus if we have a new primary. Despite coming up 905 tainted votes ahead, he’s proven himself to be an inept politician. He told reporters that he hired McCrae Dowless despite questioning the legitimacy of his tactics in the 2016 primary that Harris lost.
I doubt Harris will ever see Congress. I suspect the Board will deadlock along party lines since party seems to be all that matters in politics today. The US House will demand a new election and Harris will lose in a primary to a better Republican candidate. Republicans can thank Mitch McConnell if that’s the outcome.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >