Leslie McCrae Dowless, not a Walking Dead extra

Big-time developments in the ongoing fuck-tussle of election fraud and weirdness that was November's election for the Ninth Congressional District in North Carolina. For starters, the Democrat who "lost" the race, Dan McCready, said in a TV interview that he is withdrawing his concession in the race. This just makes sense, seeing as how the "905-vote" "victory" of Republican Mark Harris is now "clouded" by all the alleged but pretty damn obvious election frauding by an operative hired to help the Harris campaign "get out" the absentee vote. (Also, to decide which absentee ballots to "keep in"!) McCready said, "we have seen the criminal activity come to light, and we have seen that my opponent, Mark Harris, has bankrolled this criminal activity," and so perhaps he'd been a bit hasty in assuming the vote tally the day after the election was real, huh?

Here, enjoy Dan McCready making his noncession official on Twitter and calling on Mark Harris to tell everyone "exactly what he knew and when he knew it."

On the larger topic of who knew what and when, let's all smack our foreheads and say, Jesus, these people while we look at yesterday's Washington Post story on the aftermath of May's Republican primary for NC 9. Three-term incumbent Robert Pittenger was turfed out (hi, Rachel Maddow, that is what you say!) by Harris, whose only qualifications for the seat were being a Baptist pastor and wanting to be in Congress real bad. Turns out, Pittenger suspected bad nastiness starting primary night, once he "lost" to Harris by just 828 votes.

The congressman turned to a group of friends and family who had gathered with him on election night at a steakhouse near Charlotte and blamed the "ballot stuffers in Bladen," according to three people at the gathering.

Pittenger's concern stemmed from the vote tallies in rural Bladen County, where his challenger, a pastor from the Charlotte suburbs named Mark Harris, had won 437 absentee mail-in votes. Pittenger, a three-term incumbent, had received just 17.

Aides to Pittenger took their concerns about possible frauding to "the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party and a regional political director for the National Republican Congressional Committee," WaPo reports. And then those state and national party officials looked right into it, because the integrity of the vote is one of their top priorities, right? Yes, we like our little bitter jokes. But nahh -- the party officials had a general election against a well-funded Democrat to win, so of course they just focused on that.

Thank goodness, an NRCC spokesperson denied anyone from Pittenger's campaign ever said anything about fraud in the primary, which should put an end to the story. The Harris campaign likewise insists it never knew of any illegal activity by the guy it hired, through consulting firm "Red Dome," to get out the absentee vote in two counties, Bladen and Robeson.

And that guy, Leslie McCrae Dowless, a grifty convicted felon (for insurance fraud, in the '90s), told reporters Thursday he had no comment on any of this, but added, like a gentleman, "No disrespect to anybody."

Dowless was referred for investigation in 2016 after he more or less admitted to the state board of elections he'd paid people to collect voters' unsealed mail-in ballots and fill them out for the candidate he worked for, which is kind of a felony. Which kind of makes you wonder why anyone would hire him in 2018, but hey, it was a bit of an open secret, and Dowless wasn't paid by George Soros, making him immune from suspicion.

All the information coming out about Dowless's operation has also changed the tune of Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the North Carolina GOP. When the state election board voted unanimously (yes, including the Republican members) not to certify the election, Woodhouse's first action was to record a a fundraising message for the state GOP, insisting the party needed money to "keep the Democrats from stealing the congressional race," because that's how Democrats do. But Woodhouse told WaPo Thursday that, on further reflection, if the elections board were to "show a substantial likelihood" that fraud actually affected the vote count in November, "then we fully would support a new election."

Woodhouse seemed to have a little difficulty remembering things for the Post, or at least presenting those memories in a way he wanted printed nationally (we are speculating, can you tell?):

Woodhouse initially said he did not recall fielding complaints from Pittenger aides of possible fraud after the primary. But he called back a few moments later to say that he did remember hearing of anomalies — and took "a cursory look at the end of that race at the vote totals."

He recalled concluding that Harris had won the overall vote with a strong showing from evangelical voters, but he said: "We did not look real specifically at absentee ballots."

You know, this might be an excellent moment to remind you nice folks that Woodhouse was the focus of that 2016 "This American Life" segment in which Zoe Chace profiled Woodhouse's lonely, futile search for vote fraud, and which included Woodhouse getting very excited about the possibility of nailing a Democratic-aligned PAC for absentee ballot fraud. Problem is, that accusation came from ol' McCrae Dowless himself, who couldn't prove any Democrats were frauding but admitted he'd paid "volunteers" to collect votes. So you might think absentee ballot fraud in Bladen County would ring a bell for him.

Still, he told WaPo, it was a really busy time, lots of things distracting him.

"If somebody said something about the absentee ballots, it is just very possible that it didn't register with us," Woodhouse said. "We had a lot of campaigns and a lot of people expressing concerns at the end of the election, and we were trying to quickly move on to the general election."

Look, it's not like North Carolina Republicans even listen to public radio, don't be silly.

As for the national GOP, the WaPo story explains,

NRCC spokesman Matt Gorman denied that anyone affiliated with the Pittenger campaign brought up possible fraud to anyone at the committee, including Tyler Foote, who ran the southeast region for the NRCC.

"We had them on the phone numerous times, and there was no mention of fraud," Gorman said. "It's unfortunate that there's a revisionist history going on."

Ready for an amazing coincidence regarding Mr. Foote, that regional NRCC guy?

Foote did not respond to multiple requests for comment. He has been named Harris's incoming chief of staff, although whether Harris will be seated in Congress in January remains uncertain.

Pittenger, meanwhile, has had plenty to hint at, urging the Charlotte Observer last week, "Look at the votes. Follow the money," and telling Spectrum News he was "fully aware" of some light unspecified ratfucking:

Pittenger also told WaPo he'd spoken to Dowless for "five or 10 minutes," which was all he needed to decide he didn't want the guy working on his campaign:

"I didn't want to do business with him after I met him," Pittenger said. "I just didn't like the way it sounded. But he went other places, and I knew that was going to be an issue. But nonetheless, I was willing to live with" the possibility that opponents might hire the operative.

He also rejected advice from some of his advisers to just hire Dowless in 2018 and pay him to do absolutely nothing, just to keep him from working with an opponent, according to "two people close to the campaign."

The saddest part of the whole piece is the reaction when Pittenger and his people tried to make a fuss about the absentee vote weaselry: Not only were local and national Rs far more interested in getting to work on the general, it seems they just didn't like Pittenger all that much anyway.

Pittenger was also hampered by poor rapport with his aides and other Republicans in North Carolina and Washington, so there was little appetite to take up a fight on his behalf, according to people familiar with the situation.

Before you go feeling too sad for the schlub, please remember that Robert Pittenger is a terrible person who in a 2014 fundraising letter said his oath required him to protect America from all enemies, explaining "My friend, make no mistake, Barack Obama is Enemy Number One!" He also insisted Obama's Iran nuke deal made Adolf Hitler look like "a minor player" in world history by comparison. And yes, he explained black people only protest police shootings of unarmed black men because "They hate white people because white people are successful and they're not."

The poor dear (not that the gay-hatin' Harris is any improvement). Let's hope Dan McCready gets a chance for a fair election against either of those jerks.

And finally, just to top off this sundae of Surrealism, the Washington Post today got Kris Kobach, of all people, to say he thought NC 9 just might involve election fraud. Kobach, of course, inaccurately called it "voter fraud," even though there's no evidence voters did a goddamn thing wrong. Yet another reason to completely ignore that turd.

[WSOC-TV / WaPo]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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