Robert Pittenger

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Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter. We want to hear what you think. Email us at attheraces@cqrollcall.com with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. — Simone Pathé and Bridget Bowman

A House Race in North Carolina Gets Curiouser and Curiouser
Who knew the background checks for political work were so lax?

For a while it looked like Republican Mark Harris had squeaked out a win in the 9th District. But there’s something rotten in the state of North Carolina, Curtis writes. (John D. Simmons/AP file photo)

OPINION — CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Perhaps North Carolina’s 9th District will have a congressman by January; but maybe not.

You see, there seems to have been a mix-up in the count, distribution and collection of absentee ballots in Bladen and Robeson counties, which make up part of the district — what the state elections board (made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and one independent) called “unfortunate activities” when it first refused to certify the results.

North Carolina Woman Admits to ‘Harvesting’ Ballots for Mark Harris Operative
State elections board officials delay certifying Harris’ victory over Democrat Dan McCready

Fall leaves frame the dome of the U.S. Capitol building on Nov. 8, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A North Carolina woman on Tuesday admitted to illegally “harvesting” ballots for a campaign operative working for GOP candidate Mark Harris in the race for the state’s 9th District U.S. House seat.

Ginger Eason, a Bladen County resident, told a reporter for WSOC-TV on Tuesday that she had done campaign work for Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., who paid her $75 to $100 per week to collect absentee ballots in the county and deliver them to him.

NC Prosecutor Has Been Probing Election Fraud in 9th District Going Back to 2016
State elections board has twice declined to certify Republican Mark Harris’ slim victory amid fraud claims

A North Carolina prosecutor has been investigating election irregularities in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District long before Mark Harris’ contested election in November’s election. (John D. Simmons /The Charlotte Observer file photo via AP)

The district attorney in Wake County, North Carolina, has been investigating claims of election tampering in North Carolina’s 9th District for months, long before the results of the district’s congressional race were thrown into question over claims of fraud.

Lorrin Freeman opened a probe earlier this year to examine irregularities in the 2016 election in the 9th-District section of Bladen County, and has since added similar allegations from the 2018 primary and general elections to her investigation.

GOP Tells N.C. Elections Board to Certify 9th District Results Even as It Probes Election Fraud
Irregularities in mail-in absentee ballots has thrown GOP's victory into question

Irregularities in absentee voting has led to accusations of election fraud for the benefit of North Carolina Republican Mark Harris  (John D. Simmons /The Charlotte Observer via AP file photo)

Republicans in North Carolina are pressuring the state elections board there to certify the 9th District results, even as officials continue to investigate irregularities in absentee voting.

Those irregularities, and a handful of sworn statements alleging illegal “harvesting” of absentee ballots, have led to accusations of election fraud for the benefit of Republican Mark Harris.

AP Retracts Call for Republican in North Carolina’s 9th District
State officials are investigating allegations of fraud

North Carolina Republican Mark Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready in the 9th District, but the state board of elections has not yet certified the result. (John D. Simmons /The Charlotte Observer via AP file photo)

The Associated Press on Friday retracted its call in North Carolina’s 9th District. The press agency had called the race for Republican Mark Harris on Nov. 9, three days after Election Day, but with state election officials investigating allegations of fraud and delaying the certification of the results, the AP is now treating the race as if it’s proceeded to a recount.

State officials in North Carolina are investigating allegations of fraud in the 9th District, where Harris leads Democrat Mark McCready by less than a thousand votes.

Rep. Pittenger ‘Fully Aware’ of ‘Unsavory People’ in Election Fraud Claims
North Carolina has delayed certifying insurgent Republican Mark Harris’ victory in 9th District

Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., said there were “unsavory people” who could be undermining election results in his district. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As the North Carolina state elections board continues to delay certifying the results of the congressional election in the 9th District over irregularities involving absentee ballots, Rep. Robert Pittenger, the district’s lame-duck congressman, said he was “fully aware” that there were “unsavory people” afoot in one of the counties.

“We were fully aware of it. There’s some pretty unsavory people out, particularly in Bladen County. And I didn’t have anything to do with them,” Pittenger said in an interview with Spectrum News in Raleigh.

‘Unfortunate Activities’ Delays North Carolina 9th District Results
Baptist minister Mark Harris has not yet been certified the winner over Democrat Dan McCready

Baptist minister Mark Harris (left), who is seeking election in North Carolina’s 9th district, and Rep. Ted Budd , R-N.C., are introduced by President Donald Trump during an October campaign rally in Charlotte. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images file photo)

The state elections board in North Carolina has delayed ratifying Baptist minister Mark Harris’ victory over Democrat Dan McCready in the 9th District, citing “unfortunate activities” in one county.

Harris defeated McCready by less than 1,000 votes in the tally as it now stands.

6 Close House and Senate Races That Hurricane Michael Could Hit
Hurricane projections meet 2018 congressional election handicapping

Scott Brazer and his dog Franklin take shelter in a parking garage as Hurricane Michael passes through the area on October 10, 2018, in Panama City, Florida. The hurricane made landfall on the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Hurricane Michael made landfall along the Florida panhandle Wednesday and is expected to wreak havoc on many states and congressional districts as it winds up the east coast of the southern United States.

The Category 4 storm, which President Donald Trump dubbed a “massive tornado” Wednesday (note: the storm is not a tornado), will test the commitment of campaign volunteers in Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia, where incumbents and newcomers are locked in tight races with the 2018 midterm elections less than four weeks away.

6 Takeaways From the 2018 Primary Season, So Far
President, female candidates play key roles in drawing the midterm battle lines

New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez set the internet ablaze with her upset of House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley, but overall, the 2018 primaries have been kind to incumbents. (Mario Tama/Getty Images file photo)

With only three states left to hold primaries this year, the battle lines have firmed up for a midterm election that could also determine the future for President Donald Trump.

Democrats need to net 23 seats to take control of the House, which would give them a platform to block the president’s agenda and launch their own investigations of his finances and the 2016 election that could rival those already underway at the Justice Department.