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

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.

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest News
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Director of Audience:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: