Looks Like NC Republican Mark Harris Hired That Fraudster Dude FOR The Ratf*cking, Not In Spite Of It
Ever since the allegations of tampering with absentee ballots in his North Carolina congressional "win" first became public, Republican Mark Harris has insisted he knew nothing about any improper actions by an operative his campaign had hired. The alleged ratfucker in question, Leslie McCrae Dowless, has been accused by several people -- including his own employees -- of running an operation that collected absentee ballots and may have filled them in for voters, which was both very helpful and a felony. In a thoroughly not-shocking development, the Washington Post reports that according to three unnamed insiders, Harris didn't just know Dowless might be hinky, but specifically went looking for Dowless's help in 2018, because better to have the hinky guy working for Harris than any other candidate, huh?
Harris and "Red Dome," the consulting group through which his campaign contracted with Dowless, have both been subpoenaed by the North Carolina State Board of Elections, which is investigating what exactly happened with Harris's 905-vote "victory" over Democratic candidate Dan McCready. Harris's last comment on the election came in a December 7 video in which he said he "was absolutely unaware of any wrongdoing," and urged the elections board to ferret out any untoward activity by either campaign, because #BothSides of course.
But gosh golly, other people seem to think that just might not be the case! You see, Harris learned something hinky was going on in 2016, when a last-place candidate Dowless just happened to be working for weirdly won ALL THE MAIL-IN VOTES:
Harris was warned about possible fraud on primary day in June 2016, during his first bid for the 9th District congressional seat, according to people familiar with the conversation.
The incumbent congressman and winner of the primary had received just one mail-in vote in rural Bladen County. Harris, who came in second place, had won four. [Todd] Johnson, the last-place contender, meanwhile, had received nearly all of them — 221.
The only explanation, advisers told Harris that night in Charlotte, was that something shady had occurred on that third-place campaign, according to the people.
When 2018 rolled around and Harris, a Baptist preacher who'd never held office, decided to try another run for Congress, he "personally directed the hiring of Dowless," according to the unnamed insiders.
One person said Harris's decision to hire Dowless stemmed partly from his realization that he would have defeated Rep. Robert Pittenger if he'd won the mail-in vote by as large a margin as third-place contender Johnson had.
Hey, nothing like getting a proven performer on your team! Sure, Dowless had a bit of a reputation for shady stuff, but it was a reputation for winning, and Jesus likes winners. Harris wanted Dowless and his particular set of skills, even before contracting with RedRum in 2017, according to "three people familiar with early campaign deliberations." And yes, that was in spite of "warnings about Dowless's criminal record and Dowless's own public testimony describing questionable election tactics," in which we see the dude actually telling the elections board about his operation after that 2016 election. It was on "This American Life," although of course no Republican would ever listen to socialism radio.
Oh, yes, adds WaPo, around the same time Harris was considering hiring Dowless, in the spring of 2017, Harris
introduced Dowless to Pete Givens, a parishioner of Harris's and a candidate for Charlotte City Council that year.
Givens was running a long shot bid as a Republican in a heavily Democratic district with historically low turnout. "How do we get 75,000 people who never show up off their rears?" Givens wondered at the time, he said in an interview. Harris drove Givens to meet Dowless, and Givens ended up hiring him, paying him $800 in May 2017.
Let us just yell here, this happened LESS THAN A YEAR AFTER JOHNSON SMOKED HARRIS in the Bladen County PRIMARY, with Dowless "helping" with absentee votes. Still, Givens is pretty sure it was all an innocent misunderstanding!
Givens said that he didn't know of any wrongdoing and that he believes "there's no way that Mark Harris would have known that either."
Were there any other red flags waved at the Harris campaign? May as well if it's a day ending in heavy drinking!
Walter McDuffie, the chairman of the Bladen County Republican Party, told The Washington Post that he warned the Harris campaign about Dowless's criminal record, which includes felony convictions for fraud and perjury and a misdemeanor charge for passing a worthless check in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
It also looks like Harris may have a really hard time claiming he barely knew Dowless, or thought Dowless was merely doing some benign number crunching:
Harris also interacted regularly with Dowless during the 2018 primary campaign, according to Jeff Smith, a former associate of Dowless's who gave him office space during the spring primary and saw him nearly daily. Smith told The Post that Dowless spoke often of talking to Harris by telephone about the mail-in absentee-ballot program.
Whatever Dowless's methods, there's no arguing with the results: in the Republican primary, Harris simply destroyed Pittenger in the Bladen County absentee vote, 437-17. Oh, unless "alleged vote tampering" counts as an argument in 2018. Does it? Nobody can say. Oh, sure, two members of the state elections board who heard Dowless explain his operation in 2016 also told WaPo that hearing should have raised alarm bells. One, a Republican, said "It all stunk to high heaven," Another, a Democrat, said she thought the Harris should have known better, telling WaPo, "Apparently either the Harris campaign or Mark Harris never vetted him," which sounds to us like it's only missing a "Bless his heart."
So we'll say it: BLESS HIS HEART.
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