It's a sentence that might perfectly sum up the state of politics in 2018: Chili’s Bar & Grill has weighed in on allegations of election fraud in a North Carolina Congressional race.
“Don't repeat calls for rewarding election fraud and you can have the time of your life at your local Chili's,” the company tweeted before adding a caveat that it had no intentions of getting political.
The thread began when Andrew Bates, spokesperson for the progressive super PAC American Bridge, tweeted a response to the North Carolina GOP director who said Republican Mark Harris should take his seat in the House despite being implicated in an alleged election fraud scheme. “I will give you a Chili’s gift certificate if we can make it to Christmas without you repeating calls for rewarding election fraud,” Bates wrote.
Chili’s social media handler, perhaps unaware of what the restaurant chain was stepping into, responded immediately, backing Bates. As the thread's popularity grew, Chili’s tweeted once more, acknowledging that the situation was perhaps more complicated than they'd originally thought it to be.
“What started as a lighthearted tweet is about to be hours of researching North Carolina politics,” a spokesperson for the American casual restaurant chain wrote.
Political journalists were delighted by the response and weighed in with their own takes. “Did anyone really doubt this was exactly how 2018 would end?” asked Ariel Edwards-Levy, editor at HuffPost Politics.
“Asking my bosses if the WaPo account can pivot to Public Service Chili's,” wrote The Washington Post’s social media guru Ric Sanchez.
“The thread which was spawned from this tweet is my everything right now,” said Daily Kos editor Steve Singiser.
Allegations of election fraud have grown in North Carolina’s 9th District race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready, as one of Harris’s operatives, Leslie McCrae Dowless, was accused of tampering with election results by collecting and possibly manipulating absentee ballots.
Speculation of the fraud began when Harris won on election night by fewer than 1,000 votes, after requesting an unusually large number of absentee ballots. Staffers later said that Dowless had directed them to collect ballots from voters and, in some cases, fill out incomplete ballots. This practice, known as ballot harvesting, is considered election fraud.
North Carolina officials are currently investigating the allegations, and The Associated Press revoked its call of a Harris win.
Still, the North Carolina Republican party insists that Harris is the rightful winner and believes he should take his seat in Washington, D.C. this January. “Absent clear public evidence the race was altered Mr. Harris should be seated,” Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina GOP, tweeted Monday, launching the great Chili’s debacle of 2018.