Despite Facing A Slew Of Charges, McCrae Dowless Files To Run For District Seat

FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2018, file photo, Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., poses for a portrait outside his home in Bladenboro, N.C. State investigators have described Dowless as a “person of interest” in their probe in... FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2018, file photo, Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., poses for a portrait outside his home in Bladenboro, N.C. State investigators have described Dowless as a “person of interest” in their probe into 2018 voting irregularities involving absentee ballots. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP, File) MORE LESS
July 7, 2020 5:48 p.m.

McCrae Dowless, the infamous political operative behind an alleged absentee ballot scheme that got a North Carolina congressional election tossed in 2018, filed for reelection Monday for his district supervisor position.

Currently, Dowless serves as vice chairman to the Bladen Soil & Water Conservation District. The nonpartisan board is made up of three members who are elected and two who are appointed by the North Carolina Soil and Water Conservation Commission. Each commissioner serves a four-year term. The election will take place this fall, and Dowless will face two competitors as of Monday’s filing deadline.

The taint from Dowless’ alleged absentee ballot scheme in 2018 actually forced the re-do of some down-ballot races, alongside the congressional one — including the contest for one of the Soil & Water Conservation District slots. 

But Dowless has bigger worries than an election coming down the pike. He is still facing state and federal charges. 

He was indicted last year on state charges, including two counts of felony obstruction of justice and perjury related to the absentee ballot fraud scheme, which he allegedly orchestrated to bolster the candidacy of Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris in North Carolina’s 9th District. The charges stemmed from his alleged absentee ballot harvesting in the 2016 general election, 2018 primary and the 2018 midterm election.

Dowless allegedly used tricks like changing up the ink and signatures to make them look legitimate and “batching” them, or submitting small groups at a time, to fly under the radar, according to a State Board of Elections report. 

And this April, he was indicted on a new set of federal charges for allegedly defrauding the Social Security Administration.

While he was working on 2018 midterms, including Harris’ campaign, he was also pocketing $14,203 in disability checks and retirement insurance benefits, according the indictment. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the Social Security Administration, Dowless allegedly raked in $132,365.57 from his work as a political operative. If convicted, Dowless could be sentenced to years in prison.

Per North Carolina state election law, the outcome of those cases could affect Dowless’ eligibility.

“The notice of candidacy includes questions about any previous felony convictions of
the candidate, and will require a further report on those convictions if there are any,” said the State Board of Elections. “Active felons who have not had their citizenship rights fully restored (full completion of any felony sentence, including probation, restitution, etc.) are not eligible to be registered to vote or to run for elected office.”

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