Mark Harris announces he won't run in new 9th district election

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Mark Harris announced Tuesday that he will not run in the new election for North Carolina's Ninth Congressional District.

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Harris was the top vote-getter, edging Democrat Dan McCready in November's election, but never took office after allegations of ballot fraud surfaced.

"Given my health situation, the need to regain full strength, and the timing of this surgery the last week of March, I have decided not to file in the new election for Congressional District 9," Harris said Tuesday. "While few things in my life have brought me more joy than getting to meet and know the people of this incredible part of North Carolina, and while I have been overwhelmed by the honor of their support for me as the Congressman-elect of NC-9, I owe it to Beth, my children and my six grandchildren to make the wisest decision for my health. I also owe it to the citizens of the Ninth District to have someone at full strength during the new campaign. It is my hope that in the upcoming primary, a solid conservative leader will emerge to articulate the critical issues that face our nation.

Harris also said he was endorsing Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing as a candidate for the seat.

"Stony, from my observation, along with his wife Anne-Marie, have served Union County effectively through the years," Harris said. "His background and his experience have proven him to stand firm on so many of the issues that concern us, including the issue of life, our national security, and religious freedom. I hope that those who have stood with me will strongly consider getting behind Stony Rushing."

NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes said he supported Harris' decision.

"The North Carolina Republican Party fully supports Dr. Harris' decision," Hayes said. "The most important thing for him to address is his health. This has been a grueling process for all involved, and we unequivocally support his call for a new election. There are numerous quality candidates that are discussing a run and although the Party will not be involved in a primary, we have no doubt that a competitive nominee will emerge."

McCready has announced that he will again run for the 9th district office.

"Mark Harris may have seen the writing on the wall but that won't save the eventual Republican nominee from being tainted by the Republican Party's efforts to steal an election," North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said Tuesday. "The entire country watched investigators lay out piece by piece how North Carolina Republicans committed an elaborate election fraud scheme, and that investigation will follow whichever Republican runs for this seat."

Hayes had pointed words for Democrats.

"A word to Dan McCready and his Democrat allies: You did not get more legal votes and there are no free lunches in politics," Hayes said. "You will be held responsible for the extremist positions your Party has taken and your role to erase more than 283,000 legal votes by citizens of the Ninth Congressional District."

Meanwhiile, North Carolina criminal investigators are seeking phone and bank records as they dig into ballot fraud allegations that forced an election re-do in the country's last undetermined congressional seat.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Tuesday the search warrants and what agents collected remain sealed from the public.

READ MORE: Mark Harris' son warned his father that Bladen Co. absentee ballots 'didn't add up'

Court clerks records show the State Bureau of Investigation collected financial records for an unidentified suspect in December and sought phone records last month. Judges both times agreed the name of the suspect and details of the Bladen County case should be kept secret.

The state elections board last week ordered a new election in the state's 9th congressional district after hearing evidence that a political operative working for Harris may have illegally collected mail-in ballots.

SEE MORE: Map of NC congressional districts (.PDF)

Harris led McCready by just 905 votes. But the state refused to certify the outcome.

The State Board of Elections has not yet set a date for the do-over election.
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