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Democrat Dan McCready withdraws his concession in North Carolina congressional race roiled by accusations of fraud

North Carolina Democratic congressional candidate Dan McCready talks to voters in Pembroke, N.C., before last month’s election
North Carolina Democratic congressional candidate Dan McCready talks to voters in Pembroke, N.C., before last month’s election (Travis Dove for The Washington Post)

Democrat Dan McCready withdrew his concession Thursday in a North Carolina congressional race that has been roiled by accusations of fraud.

In an interview with Charlotte-area TV station WSOC, McCready also called on Republican rival Mark Harris “to tell the American people exactly what he knew and when he knew it.”

“Over the last week, we have seen the criminal activity come to light, and we have seen that my opponent, Mark Harris, has bankrolled this criminal activity,” McCready said. “And so, as of today, I am withdrawing my concession to Mark Harris.”

McCready followed up with a tweet announcing the news.

Months after the midterms, an election-fraud investigation in North Carolina's 9th District is focusing on an operative who worked for the GOP candidate. (Video: Jenny Starrs, Sarah Hashemi, Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post, Photo: Justin Kase Conder/The Washington Post)

North Carolina election officials are investigating whether an operative working on behalf of Harris illegally collected incomplete ballots from voters in the state’s 9th District.

The state probe has delayed the certification of Harris’s race, and state officials could decide to call for a new election. Harris and McCready are separated by 905 votes, according to unofficial returns.

McCready had conceded defeat Nov. 7, about 24 hours after the polls had closed and long after Harris had declared victory.

“For me now, country over party means offering my help to Mark, which I did by phone, as he takes over his new job representing us,” McCready said at the time. “I believe when our leaders succeed, all of us succeed.”

The allegations are largely concentrated in two North Carolina counties where Republican operative Leslie McCrae Dowless allegedly oversaw a crew of workers who collected absentee ballots from voters. Some of those ballots, according to affidavits filed with state authorities, were incomplete when they were gathered.

Dowless ran a get-out-the-vote effort for the Harris campaign during the primary and general elections.

Dowless, who has worked on political campaigns in Bladen for at least a decade, touts his ability to mobilize voters to cast ballots by mail. He has been under scrutiny by state officials since 2016, when allegations surfaced about illegal ballot harvesting in that year’s campaigns.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections has indicated that it will hold a hearing on the latest allegations by Dec. 21 and could decide afterward whether to certify the election, call a new election or take some other course of action.

Earlier this week, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), the incoming majority leader, said the House might refuse to seat Harris in January if “substantial” questions remain about the integrity of the election.

Asked about that prospect Thursday, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has been nominated by her party to serve as speaker next year, said she is watching to see what the state board of elections decides.

She noted that “the House still retains the right to determine who is seated” and said that if members object to Harris being seated, “we’ll see how that goes.”

Under the Constitution, the House has the express authority to judge the “elections, returns and qualifications” of its members.

Hoyer said this week that he intended to discuss the matter with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who is expected to chair the Committee on House Administration next year.

Under federal law, that panel is empowered to independently investigate the election and make recommendations about how the dispute should be resolved — including calling for a new election.

“This is bigger than one seat,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference Thursday. “This is about undermining the integrity of our elections, and what was done there was so remarkable and that those entities got away with it, even to the detriment of Republicans in the primary.”

Separately, a group of Republican state senators Thursday asked Gov. Roy Cooper (D) to create a bipartisan task force to examine election fraud.

Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.