The Republican candidate at the heart of an election-fraud scandal in North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District says he won’t run in a special election to fill the seat. Mark Harris, whose campaign had hired a Republican operative accused of improperly collecting and altering absentee ballots in Bladen County, urged supporters to back Union County commissioner Stony Rushing instead.
Rushing, a Republican and the owner of Take Aim Training Range, did not return emails sent to his government account and to an AOL address linked to his professional website by press time. But a Facebook page that appears to belong to him features weeks of posts denying any possibility of election fraud. (It also features multiple photos of Rushing dressed as Jefferson Davis “Boss” Hogg, a recurring character on The Dukes of Hazzard.)
As recently as Saturday, Rushing had decried the state board of elections’ fraud hearings:
In earlier posts, Rushing seems to suggest that fraud didn’t occur at all, and that NCSBE’s investigation was politically motivated:
On January 10, Rushing accused Jens Lutz, the former chairman of the Bladen County Elections Board, of seeking “revenge” against the operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, for personal reasons. Lutz, who also formerly chaired the county Democratic Party, resigned from the elections board in December; the Raleigh News & Observer reports that he and Dowless had once owned a political consulting firm.
Lutz appears in another graphic that Rushing posted to both his Facebook and a Twitter account in his name:
Rushing also claimed to have contacted the Justice Department to complain that “a political coup” had occurred in the district, and once said that the FBI should investigate the NSCBE.
Rushing may prove to be a controversial candidate for other reasons, too. In 2015, not long after Dylann Roof murdered nine members of the historically black Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Rushing introduced and passed a measure that prevented Union County from removing Confederate flags on display at a local courthouse. “I don’t have a problem with the flag or our history,” he said to the Charlotte Observer at the time. He probably won’t be the only Republican running to replace Robert Pittenger, the incumbent Harris defeated last year. Republicans Tommy Tucker and Matthew Ridenhour also told WSOC 9 that they’re considering runs. Dan McCready, the Democrat that Harris narrowly defeated in November, will also run in the special election.