RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina State Board of Elections has declared there will be a new election in a contested House race after the Republican candidate admitted misspeaking under oath on Thursday.

Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris says a new election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District is warranted after allegations of ballot tampering.

Harris, during testimony Thursday afternoon to the state elections board, said a new election was warranted in the hotly contested race, which Harris led by 905 votes. Harris also said he may have mistakenly testified earlier Thursday. He said he is recovering from an infection that led to sepsis and two strokes, and that he realized he was not prepared for the “rigors” of this hearing.

Earlier Thursday, Harris said he knew nothing of an alleged ballot-tampering scheme led by an operative he hired to work in his 2108 campaign.

Harris’ testimony came the day after his son, John Harris, a federal prosecutor, testified about the warnings he offered his father in phone calls and emails that he believed the operative had broken the law in a previous election.

In his own testimony Thursday, the elder Harris maintained as he has in previous interviews with reporters that he was unaware of red flags about the operative’s alleged tactics – notwithstanding what his son told him in the spring of 2017.

Harris said he didn’t follow his son’s advice in part because John Harris was just 27 years old at the time and added that the younger Harris is “a little judgmental and has a little taste of arrogance and some other things. And I’m very proud of him and love him with all my heart.”

Harris, a Baptist minister, took the stand on the fourth day of dramatic hearings into allegations that widespread election fraud tainted the results in the 9th Congressional District, the last undecided congressional race in the country. Harris leads by 905 votes over Democrat Dan McCready.

Harris said he hired the operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless, on the advice of a number of Republican friends and colleagues. He said he believed Dowless when he offered to run a legal absentee-ballot program for Harris’s campaign.

Harris’ testimony followed the dramatic opening moments of Thursday’s hearings, in which Josh Lawson, general counsel for the State Board of Elections, disclosed a letter rebuking Harris’s campaign lawyers for failing to turn over the emails between Harris and his son until 15 minutes before John Harris appeared Wednesday.

“The timing of your disclosure raises significant and material concerns regarding the Committee’s compliance and candor prior to, and now during, the hearing,” Lawson wrote. He said John Harris’ subsequent testimony “strongly suggests” that the campaign’s explanation – that the query for emails had been incomplete – “was not accurate.”

Lawson also asked Harris if he had had any conversations this week describing his understanding that the email exchanges with his son would not be a part of the evidence to be presented at the hearing. Harris said he did not recall – three times to Lawson and once to Marc Elias, the lawyer for Harris’s Democratic opponent, Dan McCready.

After he answered Elias, Harris’ lawyer, David Freedman, abruptly stood up and asked the board’s chairman, Bob Cordle, if he could speak to the board in private.

Before the hearing was paused for that closed session, Harris explained on the witness stand how he had met Dowless – the 63-year-old native of Bladen County at the center of a suspected ballot-tampering scheme that has left the 9th District in limbo since November, when the board declined to certify a winner and launched an investigation instead. The district runs along the South Carolina border from Charlotte to rural eastern North Carolina.

Dowless was a “good ole boy” who “ate, slept and drank” politics and was recommended to him by a former state judge, Harris said. He met Dowless in 2017 at a local furniture store in the 9th District, and the two, along with other Republicans, sat on couches in the store’s showroom so that Dowless could describe his absentee-ballot operation.

Harris had heard that Dowless was responsible for delivering an overwhelming share of the absentee ballot vote in the 2016 Republican primary for Todd Johnson, which Harris had lost to the incumbent at the time, Robert Pittenger. Harris was still smarting that he had lost to Pittenger by so few votes, and believed that if he had hired Dowless that year, he would have won.

“I turned to McCrae and said, ‘Well, what makes you so special? What is it that you do?'” Harris recalled.

Harris said Dowless explained to him that his operation was strictly legal. He would hire workers who would collect ballot request forms from voters, and then return once actual ballots had been sent out and help the voters fill out and mail the ballots. “We don’t touch the ballots,” Harris recalled the operative saying. Collecting or filling out another voter’s ballot is a felony in North Carolina.

Harris’s testimony drew skepticism from some board members. He was questioned about how Dowless paid his workers for each ballot request form they turned in – and whether that should have raised a red flag.

Harris claimed very little knowledge about the inner workings of his campaign, which he said was handled primarily by his campaign consultant, Andy Yates of Red Dome Group. Yates completed two days of testimony on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the younger Harris, now 29, said he offered the advice to his father as he considered whether to hire Dowless to run his absentee-ballot program in the 2018 congressional race. He conveyed similar concerns to Yates, he said. Mark Harris hired Dowless despite his son’s concerns.

At one point during his testimony, John Harris’ voice cracked and his father wept.

“I thought what he was doing was illegal, and I was right,” John Harris said about Dowless. He added: “I had no reason to believe that my father actually knew, or my mother or any other associate with the campaign had any knowledge. I think Dowless told them he wasn’t doing any of this, and they believed him.”

Investigators also shared an email between father and son in which the younger Harris wrote: “Good test is if you’re comfortable with the full process he uses being broadcast on the news.”

The younger Harris told the board Wednesday that he began studying absentee-ballot tallies in the 9th District in June 2016, when his father narrowly lost the Republican primary.

John Harris described digging into the numbers and discovering that mailed ballots for Johnson had arrived at county election offices “in batches” — which he believed suggested that they had been collected illegally by campaign workers.

Harris said he told his father then of his suspicions. Dowless, who declined to testify this week to avoid self-incrimination, is accused of doing just that in the 2018 cycle — hiring a team of workers to illegally collect, sign, forge and turn in ballots.

Both Yates and Harris have denied knowledge of those alleged tactics. But in another email from 2016 displayed during testimony Wednesday, the two Harrises discussed the anomalies that year — as well as the irony that Dowless had submitted a complaint to state elections officials that Democrats had employed similar tactics in Bladen County.

“Guess he didn’t like the Dems cutting into his business!” the elder Harris wrote.

In a televised interview in early January, Mark Harris told Spectrum News in Raleigh that reports, including one in The Washington Post, that he had been warned of Dowless’s alleged tactics, were untrue.

In his testimony Wednesday, the younger Harris also called into question the account of Yates, whose political consulting firm had paid Dowless on behalf of the campaign.

John Harris said he was surprised to hear how little oversight Yates provided to ensure that Dowless was performing the services that he was being paid for. He was also surprised to hear Yates say he was shocked to learn of Dowless’s alleged tactics once the investigation began in November.

“Mr. Yates said he was shocked and disturbed by the testimony,” the younger Harris said. “I was disturbed. Less shocked.”

Harris said that after he warned Yates of Dowless, “Andy assured me, ‘Yeah, we’re going to make sure that he does what he says he’s going to do.’ ”

John Harris emphasized his belief that his parents did not know of Dowless’s alleged tactics, but he also acknowledged in wrenching testimony that they “wanted” to believe Dowless — perhaps against their better judgment.

The younger Harris asked the elections board if he could make a few final remarks after lawyers had completed their questioning of him.

“I love my dad, and I love my mom,” he said. “I certainly have no vendetta against them, no family scores to settle. I think that they made mistakes in this process, and they certainly did things differently than I would have done them.”