After arguing for months that allegations of election fraud had nothing to do with his disputed victory in a race for Congress in North Carolina, Republican Mark Harris on Thursday called for a new election, a day after his son had testified that he had warned his father not to employ a local political operative because of concerns about possible illegal voting activities.
An hour later, the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted unanimously to do exactly that, ordering a new election for the Ninth Congressional District.
The developments came on the fourth day of a hearing before the board - Harris testified in the morning, but instead of resuming that testimony in the afternoon, he told board members a new election was needed in North Carolina's Ninth Congressional District.
"I believe a new election should be called," Harris said. "It has become clear to me that the public's confidence in the Ninth District seat general election has been undermined."
Harris refused to answer questions from reporters as he left the hearing room.
The call for a new election came after board members said the Harris campaign had withheld documents from investigators, and in the wake of damning testimony from Harris' own son - a federal prosecutor - who said Wednesday that he had specifically warned his father not to employ Leslie McCrae Dowless to run an absentee ballot operation for his election.
"We support our candidates decision in this matter," said Dallas Woodhouse, the head of the North Carolina Republican Party.
It was an about face for Woodhouse, who had sternly defended Harris for months, as Republicans said Harris should have been declared the winner, and sent to Congress.
"We are dealing with a limited number of ballots that are nowhere close to bringing the election result into question," Woodhouse said just two days ago.
"Perhaps we should let @MarkHarrisNC9‘s team present their side of the case first," Woodhouse tweeted just an hour before Harris called for a new election.
It wasn't immediately clear if Harris would try to run in any new election.
Harris won by 905 votes over Democrat Dan McCready, but in the days after the election, questions were raised about odd absentee ballot results in Bladen County, North Carolina, which favored Harris in a variety of abnormal ways.
Evidence surfaced of a questionable absentee ballot operation run by Leslie McCrae Dowless, who was employed by a political firm allied with Harris.
Dowless refused to testify at the state elections board hearing.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.