Mark Harris says he won’t run 9th District election, throwing primary wide open

Citing health concerns, Republican Mark Harris said Tuesday that he won’t run in a new election for the 9th Congressional District.

His announcement came five days after the State Board of Elections concluded a hearing into allegations of election fraud in the 9th District by calling for a new election. Harris, who led Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes on Election Day, suddenly reversed himself last Thursday and himself called for a new vote.

It was on the witness stand that Harris revealed that not only had he been hospitalized in January for complications from an infection but that he’d had two strokes.

“After consulting with my physicians, there are several things that my health situation requires as a result of the extremely serious condition that I faced in mid-January,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “One of those is a necessary surgery that is now scheduled for the last week in March. 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.”

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Though no dates have been set for a new election, it’s expected to draw national attention, including visits from Democratic presidential candidates, in the months leading up to the 2020 presidential campaign.

For Harris, former pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist church, the announcement marked the end of a three-year quest for the 9th District seat that initially appeared to end in victory. After the election, he went to Washington for new member orientation. He hired a chief of staff and was assigned an office on Capitol Hill. He’d even chosen new paint colors.

“It’s not clear that Harris would have won the Republican nomination” in a new race, said David Wasserman, an analyst with the Washington-based Cook Political Report. “It’s important to remember that Harris was a badly damaged candidate even before the (McCrae) Dowless affair surfaced. Democrats had savaged him using his own sermons to lower his standing with suburban women.”

Harris’ sermons, first reported in July by ABC News and Roll Call, questioned whether careers were the “healthiest pursuit” for women. Another called on women to “submit” to their husbands.

Dowless is the Bladen County political operative whose absentee ballot efforts on Harris’ behalf were at the center of the election fraud allegations.

Though Harris endorsed Republican Stony Rushing, a Union County commissioner, for the congressional seat Tuesday, his withdrawal opens the door to other Republicans.

‘Voters decide’

Former Sen. Tommy Tucker of Waxhaw said he’s “95 percent sure” he’ll run. Mathew Ridenhour, a former Mecklenburg commissioner, said he’ll decide by next week. With a possible May primary and October general election, Ridenhour said time is running out for people to make up their minds.

“I don’t think any candidate can sit on the sidelines too long,” he said.

Dan Barry, chairman of the Union County GOP who’s been mentioned as a candidate, said the choice will be up to voters.

“General election candidates are chosen by the voters,” he said. “We’re going to let the voters decide.”

Two prominent Republicans, former Charlotte mayor and N.C. governor Pat McCrory and former U.S….

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