PRIMARY 2024: Harris gets a second chance to go to Congress after absentee ballot scandal

The Rev. Mark Harris has won the Republican nomination for a U.S. House seat in North Carolina, giving the pastor a second chance to go to Washington after a 2018 absentee ballot scandal.

Harris just barely crossed the 30% threshold to avoid a possible runoff in the six-candidate race in the state’s 8th District, narrowly defeating political newcomer and Union County farmer Allan Baucom.

Harris will face Democrat Justin Dues in November in a district drawn to heavily favor Republicans. The district runs from Charlotte east to Lumberton.

Harris thought he was on his way to the U.S. House in 2018 when he appeared to have won the general election by just under 1,000 votes. But an investigation found a political operative working for him gathered hundreds of absentee ballots that were either blank or partially filled out and turned them in.

While the investigation led to charges against several people and some convictions, Harris wasn’t charged, cooperated with investigators and called for a new election. The State Board of Elections agreed. Harris did not run again, however, and the seat was won by Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop. Bishop decided not to run for reelection this year and is his party’s nominee for state attorney general.

After filing to run this year, Harris called the issue a “manufactured scandal,” and said he now truly understands the “extremes Democrats will go to in order to advance their woke, leftist agenda.”

In the 13th District, Smithfield attorney Kelly Daughtry and former federal prosecutor Brad Knott of Raleigh appeared headed for a runoff after Daughtry failed to reach the 30% mark needed to win outright.

The other possible U.S. House runoff is in the 6th District. Blue Cross and Blue Shield lobbyist and political newcomer Addison McDowell and second-place finisher and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker outpaced four other Republicans in the currently Democratic district.

Under state law, the second-place finishers would have to request a second election in writing. Any runoffs would be held on May 14.

Tuesday’s primary elections initiated big changes in North Carolina’s congressional delegation. Three districts are expected to flip from Democrats to Republicans in the November election after the state’s Republican-controlled General Assembly redrew voting maps fashioned by judges for the 2022 elections.

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore decided to leave the General Assembly after 21 years and won the Republican nomination for the 14th District. In November, Moore will run against Army veteran and registered nurse Pam Genant, a Democrat. The district, redrawn by the GOP with a Moore victory in mind, includes portions of Charlotte and points west to the foothills.

Republicans Bishop and U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry decided not to run again, opening their Republican-dominated districts to new representation.

The state currently has seven Democrats and seven Republicans in the U.S. House. After the November election, the delegation is expected to comprise 10 Republicans and three Democrats. The 1st District, currently controlled by Democrats, is a toss-up.