So many political scandals, but this one is local (although making national headlines). And it get more bizarre as time goes on.
The man at the center of the obvious election fraud is as guy named
Leslie McCrae Dowless. He recruited and paid an army of workers to go door-to-door in minority neighborhoods and collect absentee ballots. Many of the ballots were never sent in; others were filled in by who knows. Dowless has done this before in previous elections and was under investigation as the election last month was going forward.
But it gets swampier.
Mark Harris, the Republican leading in the fraud-marred North Carolina congressional race, has insisted again and again that he didn’t know his own campaign worker was engaging in absentee ballot fraud. It was a suspect claim to begin with, since Leslie McCrae Dowless had built up a record of not-at-all-subtle fraud over several election cycles before going to work on the Harris campaign. Now it’s looking more like a flat-out lie.
The Washington Post’s Amy Gardner and Beth Reinhard report that Harris personally hired Dowless after noticing, in 2016, the striking results Dowless got for Harris’s primary opponent in Bladen County absentee ballots. Harris’s interest in Dowless stemmed from 2016, when the third-place finisher in the Republican primary had gotten 221 mail-in votes in Bladen County to one for the primary winner and four for Harris, the second-place finisher.
What’s more, until now, Harris has had the tiny fig leaf of semi-plausible deniability that Dowless was a subcontractor employed by a consulting firm working for the campaign. But it turns out, Harris had hired Dowless before he hired the Red Dome Group as a consultant. And Harris hired Dowless “despite warnings about Dowless’s criminal record and Dowless’s own public testimony describing questionable election tactics.”
So: Harris personally hired Dowless after seeing up close and personal how Dowless could overwhelmingly, improbably win absentee voting in Bladen County for a candidate who was otherwise coming in third. Harris hired Dowless after the chair of the Bladen County Republican Party told him that Dowless had a criminal record including fraud and perjury. But Harris saw his chance to win by any means necessary, and he took it.
A new election seems inevitable, but the question now is if Harris will be allowed on the ticket. Will there also be a new primary as well?
The North Carolina Elections Board is grappling with this as we speak.