North Carolina board calls political operative a ‘person of interest’ in election fraud probe

Posted at 9:06 PM, Dec 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-07 21:06:02-05

RALEIGH — North Carolina’s State Board of Elections on Friday named Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., a political operative who worked for Republican candidate Mark Harris, as “a person of interest in connection with an alleged absentee ballot operation in the congressional district.”

The news comes as the Wake County District Attorney’s office and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation investigate criminal allegations that Dowless used absentee ballots to alter the vote in Bladen County in the race for North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by only 905 votes.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman confirmed Friday that the FBI is assisting in the investigation.

“I will confirm we have had the assistance of the FBI,” Freeman said. The FBI would not confirm or deny if it was investigating.

Now, investigators are probing whether some absentee ballots were altered by Dowless and a loosely connected group working with him, or if ballots collected from voters were never turned in.

Dowless worked for Red Dome Group, a GOP political consulting firm that Harris paid more than $400,000.

CNN has made multiple daily attempts to reach Dowless for comment. He has not returned CNN’s calls. He has denied wrongdoing to The Charlotte Observer.

According to a statement from the board, it has issued subpoenas for documents to Red Dome Group, the Mark Harris for Congress Committee and the James Atlas McVicker Committee.

The statement also said that the board plans to schedule an evidentiary hearing as it weighs whether to certify the election results in the race.

On Friday, Harris tweeted a video statement where he said he would support a new election if there is evidence of election fraud.

“I’m hopeful that this process will ultimately result in the certification of my election to Congress before the next House session begins,” Harris said in the video. “However, if this investigation finds proof of illegal activity on either side to such a level that it could have changed the outcome of the election then I will wholeheartedly support a new election to ensure all voters have confidence in the results.”

Earlier this week, McCready withdrew his concession in the race amid investigations surrounding the allegations of election fraud.

“I didn’t serve overseas in the Marines to come home to NC and watch a criminal, bankrolled by my opponent, take away people’s very right to vote,” McCready tweeted. “Today I withdraw my concession and call on Mark Harris to end his silence and tell us exactly what he knew, and when.”

CNN reported Friday Harris’ campaign still owed more than $53,000 after last month’s election to Red Dome Group.

More than $34,000 of Harris’ debt to Red Dome Group centered on a “reimbursement payment for Bladen absentee” work and other election efforts, according to a post-election report Harris’ campaign filed late Thursday with the Federal Election Commission. Red Dome had hired Dowless to perform get-out-the-vote work for Harris’ campaign.