North Carolina Ninth: SON OF A PREACHER MAN!
The hearings into November's absentee ballot fraud fucktangle in North Carolina's Ninth District have taken a turn into gripping family drama. The Godfather maybe, or The Lion King. All we know is it got NUTS.
Yesterday, John Harris, the son of "winning" Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris, testified to the State Board of Elections that he had warned his father repeatedly that he believed Leslie McCrae Dowless had run an illegal ballot-harvesting operation in 2016, and that dad should steer clear of the guy, but that the elder Harris had gone ahead and hired Dowless to run his absentee ballot effort in two counties anyway. (Harris fils said he thought Harris père may simply have believed Dowless's insistence that his methods were on the up and up. Filial piety is nice, isn't it?) Today, it was Mark Harris's turn to testify, and holy crapweasels, what a display of craven cravenness! Also, there was a SURPRISE TWIST TODAY! Mark Harris suddenly realized how well and truly fucked he is, and called for a new election.
UPDATE: And now the Board of Elections has voted to hold a new election.
There is a lesson here, kids: Sometimes the apple falls a long way away from the tree. That, or maybe sometimes if a sanctimonious hypocrite preaches respect for law and doing the right thing, the kids pick that up and don't notice the parent is a hypocrite. (This lesson subject to later revelations that John Harris is himself a milkshake duck.)
In his sorta-surprise testimony yesterday (everyone had expected daddy Mark to testify), John Harris said he had warned his father several times about Dowless, the Republican operative who had a long long reputation for working magic with absentee ballot and get out the vote efforts in Bladen and Robeson counties. And by "magic" we mean it was pretty much an open secret Dowless was doing ballot fraud -- he virtually admitted as much in a 2016 hearing before the elections board ... where Dowless had actually gone to accuse a Democratic group of tampering with absentee ballots, natch. It was on "This American Life" and everything. Ah, but we digress.
John Harris not apparently being a public radio totebag-haver, he never mentioned the show (although, as we'll see, that hearing did come up in father-son emails). The younger Harris's concerns first came up after the 2016 Republican congressional primary in which his dad was a candidate, but lost to the incumbent, then-US Rep. Robert Pittenger. Weird thing happened in that primary, though: District-wide, Harris came in a close second to Pittenger, losing by just 142 votes. But in Bladen County, a whole different dude, Todd Johnson, won the absentee vote by an amazing margin!
Johnson received 214 absentee-by-mail votes in Bladen County, Harris received four, and Pittenger received zero.
Johnson came in third district-wide, but take a wild guess who was running Johnson's absentee-vote operation in Bladen. Can you guess? Can you? You are right, it was an evil wizard! Or McCrae Dowless, who doesn't so much do magic as sleight-of-ballot. John Harris testified he'd emailed his father just after the primary to say the "absentee by mail votes look very strange." He also said his dad had told him the night of the primary that Johnson had someone handling absentee GOTV for him in Bladen, and that he discussed with Mark Harris the possibility that Johnson may have benefited from illegal collection of absentee ballots.
After the 2016 general election, news about Dowless's complaint about possible Democratic vote tampering was a very big thing in North Carolina politics:
In an email to his son sent November 15, 2016, Mark Harris noted that McCrae Dowless "is the same guy that Johnson paid to run the 'absentee ballot program' for him."
"Guess he didn't like the Dems cutting into his business!" Mark Harris quipped.
In the same email, Daddy Harris joked, "You [can't] shoot bull to a bull shooter!" Isn't it cute how dad refuses to commit a swear like that? And how he really sounds like he knows darn well that Dowless was a master of rigging absentee ballots? (That complaint about the Democratic group came to nothing, but Dowless's own possible malfeasance was forwarded to federal prosecutors -- where it apparently went nowhere until this year's shenanigans.)
In any case, John warned his dad again in 2017 that he worried Dowless had broken the law while working for Johnson, while Dad started making excuses for the guy, because wouldn't it be great to have him on his team? Harris's son, the lawyer, said he should apply a simple test: Would you be "comfortable with the full process he uses being broadcast on the news."
Hey, that's happening right now!
John Harris said he believed by that point his dad planned to hire Dowless anyway. Still, he said he thought Dowless had probably snowed his parents with promises of electoral success, not that Dad really thought Dowless was doing anything illegal. He closed his testimony by asking for time for a personal observation:
I love my dad, and I love my mom. 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.
He seems like a good boy.
described the program as getting people to fill out absentee ballot request forms and then sending workers out to the voters to ask if they need assistance and urge them to vote. Harris says Dowless said time and time again, "We don't take ballots."
Dowless also told Harris his workers just had to be paid by the number of absentee ballot requests they collected, not by the hour, because if you pay Bladen County folk for work like that by the hour, they'd "just go and sit under a tree."
Oh yes, and the Good Preacher made a point of saying he was sure Dowless's secret was having good relationships and knowing people in the community. He even said he felt like he was a sort of "pastoral figure" for Dowless, because God and stuff.
As for his son John's warnings, Mark Harris testified he felt his son the lawyer simply was jumping to conclusions and worrying too much, and besides, those were family conversations, not actual political warnings. "I thought he was overreacting with his comments," he explained, and also too, "I didn't take it as a warning, danger ahead."
Sure, Mark. Seems legit -- and your son is just a suspicious judgy little shit:
After a lunch break, the board went into a closed session, and when they came out a short time ago, things had changed considerable!
And how's that for a sudden Perry Mason "I forgot my son warned me not to hire an ax murderer" twist! Of course, this isn't over yet -- the Board of Elections may still hear from more witnesses, but even if it doesn't, it still has to vote before there's the chance of a new election. That would require four votes, and the board has three Democrats and two Republicans. More drama no doubt on the way.
UPDATE! OK, well THAT was fast!
North Carolina's state board of elections voted Thursday to order a new election in the disputed 9th Congressional District, where no winner was declared in the 2018 midterms amid fraud allegations.
The board voted to call a new House race after hearing testimony that the November election between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready was tainted by a scheme to collect and mark voters' absentee ballots.
The vote was unanimous; we'll add details in another update, kids.
UPDATE NUMERO TWO-O: Heck, let's go straight to tweets from WSOC-TV reporte Joe Bruno, who won himself a Polk Award for his reporting on this fucktagon of fraud and sadness:
So that second one answers a question for us non-tarheels: there WILL be a new primary. Unless of course that goes to court, too. I can imagine Dems wouldn't mind a straight up rematch against that nice preacher fella.
Also too, how's this for some fucking fuckery?
That's the very Dem-aligned civil rights group that Dowless accused of vote-rigging in 2016, and that was cleared of wrongdoing.
"Would the Republican like to say something?"
"But... But.. the blacks!"
Only thing we could find (in a hurry) involving the Improvement Association in 2018 was a very ambiguous accusation involving one voter, and a couple more leftover claims from 2016. Three voters. Some taint, huh?
Now go read Joe Bruno's tweets yourselves, I'm outta here!
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