NC GOPer Mark Harris Disregarded His Son’s Warnings, Hired Dowless Anyway

Mark Harris listens to the public evidentiary hearing on the 9th Congressional District investigation Monday morning, Feb. 18, 2019, at the North Carolina State Bar in Raleigh.
Juli Leonard/Pool The News & Observer

John Harris, the son of the Republican candidate in North Carolina’s 9th District House election, testified Wednesday at a board of elections hearing that he alerted his father to the dubious tactics of political operative Leslie McCrae Dowless in 2016.

Mark Harris hired him in 2018 anyway.

According to the News and Observer, John Harris, an assistant U.S. attorney in North Carolina’s Eastern District, realized that someone was “batching” (collecting and submitting a big group at once) absentee ballots in Bladen County during the 2016 Republican primaries, based on egregiously lopsided tallies.

Harris says he told his father and mother at the time.

Harris also told his father’s campaign consultant, Andy Yates, that he’d heard of Dowless and found him to be a “shady character” in June 2017. Yates testified that he did not recall the conservation.

“After having the conversation with my dad where he filled me in on the April 6 meeting with McCrae, I expressed my concerns. Namely my belief that McCrae had engaged in collecting ballots in 2016,” John Harris said in his testimony, according to the News and Observer.

Harris’ striking testimony is likely to make things difficult for his father, who is also set to testify on Wednesday.

Harris has a small lead — 905 votes — in the still-uncalled race against Democrat Dan McCready. So far in the hearings, Harris’ lawyer has tried to portray him as ignorant of the behavior of his hired operative Dowless, which includes allegations of illegally collecting absentee ballots and filling in Republican candidates.

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