Convicted Felon, Establishment Republican Consultancy at Center of 9th District Fraud Investigation

RALEIGH – The drama around the 9th District keeps getting juicier. Following the developments, which grow by the hour, is tantamount to trying to take a drink from a fire hose. Democrats are calling for a new election, Republican leadership in the U.S. House is considering not seating Republican victor Mark Harris until the investigation is resolved, and subpoenas are going out to some interesting characters.

The person at the center of the fraud suspicions in Bladen County, Leslie McCrae Dowless, is a convicted felon that has been in the vote-harvesting game for years. Dowless was contracted by Red Dome Group, a Republican consultancy, to turn out the vote. Now they both may be getting subpoenaed. The Harris campaign has already received one.

“On Monday, the board issued a subpoena to the Harris campaign, according to campaign attorney John Branch. The board is expected to issue one soon to Red Dome Group, a GOP consulting firm based in the suburbs of Charlotte that hired Dowless, according to two people familiar with the probe.

The elections board has collected information suggesting that high-level officials in the campaign may have been aware of Dowless’s activities, according to the two people.

In statements to The Washington Post, Branch and Harris’s chief consultant, Andy Yates, confirmed that Dowless was hired by Red Dome to work on the campaign but denied that officials were aware of any illegal activity.

The campaign “at all times believed he was working within the confines of North Carolina law,” Branch said. “The campaign is now aware that the State Board of Elections is conducting an investigation, and media reports have identified Mr. Dowless as part of that investigation. We are awaiting the outcome of that investigation like everybody else.””

Dowless was allegedly paying people cash to collect absentee ballots in Bladen County, and to push the Harris candidacy along with other local candidates. The irregularities in the absentee-by-mail vote totals in that county are what originally caught the eye of elections experts, who noted the spikes were completely out of step with absentee trends in other counties in the district.

Interestingly, two years ago Dowless was himself making charges of vote fraud, which the State Board of Elections summarily dismissed. They referred the allegations to the U.S. Attorney’s office, but nothing came of it. He has been in the get-out-the-vote game for the better part of a decade in Bladen County, where he is well known and holds elected office.

“For years, Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. has been well known in Bladen County political circles.

Dowless, who goes by McCrae, serves on the board of the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation District as the vice chair, an elected position.[…]

Dowless has a criminal record dating back to the 1980s.

Records show Dowless served six months in prison after being convicted of felony fraud charge in 1992. Dowless has also previously faced a charge for perjury. [… ]

Dowless has a criminal record dating back to the 1980s.

Records show Dowless served six months in prison after being convicted of felony fraud charge in 1992. Dowless has also previously faced a charge for perjury.”

The group that hired Dowless, the Red Dome Group, is a establishment Republican consulting firm led by founder Andy Yates. The firm is essentially blessed by the establishment, and as such has a long list of notable clients from the state legislature to congress.

The revelations coming out as a result of media and official investigations into the 9th District race tell us a lot about the bowels of political campaigns.

What they don’t seem to point to is evidence that enough actual fraud took place to change the result of the election. Still, don’t expect that to stop the Left from calling for a new one, being that it is their guy who lost.

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