When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) swore in 424 members of the 116th Congress on Thursday, a representative from North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District was not part of the crowd.
Republican Mark Harris met instead with staff from the State Board of Elections to assist with their investigation into possible voter fraud.
Two months after unofficial election results showing the former Southern Baptist pastor and past president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina winner of the Nov. 6 election by 905 votes, officials have not certified the vote. The probe looks into questionable activity involving absentee ballots and a political operative hired by Harris to help get out the vote in his race with Democrat Dan McCready.
Earlier on Thursday Harris filed a lawsuit petitioning a state court to certify his election. Last month a three-judge panel overseeing a lawsuit challenging composition of the Bipartisan Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, created by the General Assembly in 2017, criticized the delay.
“The fact remains that a critical election hangs in the balance, and the voters of the 9th Congressional District are entitled to have their elected representative in place, and further to know with certainty what action is being taken to insure they are properly represented in the important matters before Congress,” the judges said in an order Dec. 27.
“We don’t believe that the number of ballots being questioned would change the outcome of this election,” Harris told reporters after his meeting with the state board of elections.
Harris stepped down as pastor of the 3,000-member First Baptist Church of Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2017 in anticipation of a run for Congress. He ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2014 and narrowly lost the Republican primary for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District in 2016.
During the recent campaign attack ads showed excerpts from archived sermons by Harris urging Christian wives to submit to their husbands and describing a woman’s “core calling” as “to be a godly wife and mother.” Harris accused Democrats of taking him out of context and twisting words to make him look bad.
In 2016 Harris was a vocal supporter of North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill” requiring transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to their sex at birth. His 2018 platform includes school choice, funding for a border wall, the Second Amendment and repeal of the Johnson Amendment, a provision that bars tax-exempt charities like churches from endorsing or opposing candidates for office.