NC House Candidate Directed Hiring Of Aide Facing Corruption Allegations

Republican NC-9th District Congressional candidate Mark Harris answers questions at a news conference at the Matthews Town Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Matthews, N.C. Harris declared victory over Democrat Dan McCready early Wednesday morning and McCready later conceded. (David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS)
David T. Foster III/Tribune News Service

North Carolina House candidate Mark Harris personally directed the hiring of a campaign aide who is now at the center of an investigation of election fraud, according to the Washington Post.

Harris sought out the local strategist, Leslie McCrae Dowless, after narrowly losing his 2016 primary to Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC), per the Post. Harris was gearing up for a rematch, and Dowless had helped a third candidate in that race achieve lopsided results in early voting — numbers that Dowless replicated for Harris’s campaign in both the primary and general election in 2018. How he got those numbers is now under investigation, with multiple people saying Dowless illegally took unsealed ballots from voters and alleging that he didn’t send in ballots from Democratic voters.

The accusations are serious enough that local officials are investigating the election and have refused to certify Harris’s narrow election-night win, and Democrats and even the North Carolina Republican Party are suggesting there be a new election.

Harris declared after the scandal broke that he was “absolutely unaware of any wrongdoing” by Dowless. But according to the Post, aides told Harris on election night 2016 that something fishy was up with Dowless’s absentee votes — and that seemingly spurred Harris to later hire him, with Harris personally ordering that Dowless be brought onboard.

Whether Harris knew of Dowless’s allegedly nefarious tactics or hired him directly has been at the center of the ongoing investigation

Both Harris’ campaign and his top consultant at the Red Dome Group have been subpoenaed by the local election commission. The FBI, federal prosecutors, the Wake County district attorney’s office and the North Carolina state Bureau of Investigation are all looking into the potential election fraud and whether Harris knew as well.

North Carolina Republicans, after initially defending Harris, have backed away in the past week as more damning facts have emerged. Local GOP lawmakers are pushing for a change in state law that would allow for a new primary to be held in the event of a new election so they might be able to pick another nominee besides Harris (current state law would force a rematch between Harris and Democrat Dan McCready).

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