North Carolina Democratic Party Chair On New Election
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The 2018 election is not quite over in North Carolina. The election commission has voted that the congressional race in the 9th District must be run again. Republican Mark Harris apparently won by 905 votes, but investigators found a contractor hired by his campaign turned in batches of questionable absentee ballots. Even his own son offered damaging testimony against Harris before he conceded the election should be run again.
State Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin has a stake in what happens next, and he's on the line from Raleigh. Welcome to the program, sir.
WAYNE GOODWIN: Good morning.
INSKEEP: Are you satisfied with this result?
GOODWIN: Yes. This will ensure a fair election will be held, finally, in the 9th Congressional District of North Carolina. It was a unanimous decision. It was the right thing to do.
INSKEEP: Although Mark Harris can run again. Is that appropriate?
GOODWIN: Well, there's nothing to prevent him, as far as I can tell, from running. I mean, you know, over an extraordinary four-day hearing - I mean, the investigators laid out point, by point, by point how Mark Harris and the state Republican Party had funded and directed through the Mark Harris campaign an elaborate legal scheme to steal that election. So that I don't - I'm not sure if he's going to even run again. I mean, that's certainly a question.
Will the state Republican Party disavow Mark Harris? And whether he will even run again, it's still a question. I don't think they could prevent him from running again. But there is a lot of interest, it appears from what I'm hearing, as to who would be an alternative Republican candidate. Of course, I'm the Democratic chair, so I don't know what they will do.
GOODWIN: It will be very interesting.
INSKEEP: How would you assess your party's chances running this again? Of course, you got a very close election here in a big Democratic wave year in 2018, but this has been a very Republican district.
GOODWIN: Well, North Carolina - for those who've been following along - for a number of years, along with Texas, is the two states that have regularly appeared in the courts due to hyperpartisan gerrymandered districts. So that's one issue. But I do believe, given the strength of the Dan McCready campaign, given that this will be a special election, given there's going to be extra attention by voters and by the public at large, I believe that Democrats can win this seat. Democrats held this seat in its previous iterations, it's just the redistricting changed it somewhat.
So I think that the Democrats have a very good chance - we just have to make our best effort, put out our message and focus on ensuring that the fair election that we should have had in November happens this year.
INSKEEP: Dan McCready, we should mention, that's the Democrat who ran last time and is running again. I'm glad, Mr. Goodwin, that you mentioned gerrymandering because some people looking at this story in North Carolina have seen larger meanings. They fit it into a larger pattern - redistricting, voter suppression. And they broadly see Republicans abandoning the idea of majority rule as the country's demographics change. Do you see this election that way?
GOODWIN: I do. I mean, and we - even today, we have multiple cases in the courts pertaining to legislative redistricting, congressional redistricting. And then there's other actions that the state Republican Party in North Carolina, and from what it appears the Republican Party nationally supports - I guess activities that suppresses the voters' rights to vote. And it makes it more difficult for people to vote and certainly makes it confusing. And of course then you add on top of that the election fraud that - not just alleged but actually happened here in the 9th District.
So I'm very pleased with the State Board of Elections, which included Democrats and Republicans, unanimously decided that there needed to be a new election because, you know, they saw the great lengths that Mark Harris and his Republican campaign went to cover up evidence of election fraud.
INSKEEP: But let me ask about this from the other side. The Democrats, as you know, have advocated wider availability of voting, absentee ballots, ballot by mail, early voting, on and on, but Republicans have pushed on fraud and ballot security. They've had trouble finding examples of fraud, but now, here's a clear one. Does the Republican candidate here finally prove that ballot security is a potential problem?
GOODWIN: Well, I think - my recollection of this is that Republicans have always talked about voter fraud. They talk about voter fraud left and right. Here we have something that's different. It's election fraud actually committed by those who were alleging that there was voter fraud, so it's not exactly what the Republicans have been searching for and seeking for.
We all want ballot security. We all want election security. But here, the very folks who are protesting, alleging that there was voter fraud were actually committing election fraud from what we saw in the evidence this week at the State Board of Elections.
INSKEEP: Oh, voter fraud meaning ineligible voters casting ballots, election fraud being messing with the results, which may have been what happened here.
GOODWIN: Right. There's a big difference.
INSKEEP: Mr. Goodman, thank you so much. Mr. Goodwin, thanks so much.
GOODWIN: My pleasure.
INSKEEP: Wayne Goodwin is the chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party. NPR's Miles Parks has been covering this hearing all week. Miles, what did you hear there?
MILES PARKS, BYLINE: So I really heard Goodwin focusing on redistricting there in the beginning, but he didn't really touch on the things that are going, you know, in his Democrat - Dan McCready's favor. McCready has raised a really impressive amount of money, hundreds of thousands of dollars since he rescinded his concession in early December. And then you couple that with the fact that Democrats are really focusing on this election security issue ahead of 2020.
Voting rights and election security - it seems like all the candidates who would have jumped into the Democratic primary at this point are going to focus on this. Those things pair really well with the fact that McCready is going to be running this year.
INSKEEP: Although, is it possible the Democrat could go through all of this and still lose the election, given that it has been drawn as a Republican-leaning district?
PARKS: It's definitely possible. When you look at 2016, Robert Pittenger, who ran as the Republican there, won in the general election by more than 15 points. So this is definitely a toss-up district in 2018, but it was Republican-leaning as recently as two years ago.
INSKEEP: Miles, thanks for your reporting on this amazing story.
PARKS: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Miles Parks. He's in Raleigh, N.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.