Operative Charged In Ninth Congressional Race

Feb 27, 2019

Leslie McCrae Dowless, center, and his attorney, Cynthia Singletary, head into the State Board of Elections hearing into voting irregularities in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District on February 19.
Credit Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

11:55 a.m.

An operative in North Carolina's unresolved congressional race has been charged with obstruction and illegal ballot possession related to 2016 and 2018 elections .

According to testimony and other findings detailed at an election board hearing last week, Leslie McCrae Dowless conducted an illegal "ballot harvesting" operation. He and his assistants are accused of gathering up absentee ballots from voters by offering to put them in the mail.

He was working on behalf of Republican candidate Mark Harris, who had a slim lead in the vote count before a new election was ordered.

1 a.m.

Three well-known Republicans are staying out of a North Carolina congressional race being re-run after suspicions of ballot fraud tainted the first try. Instead, the GOP's 50-year hold on the seat will be left to lesser-known candidates.

Mark Harris said Tuesday he will not run in the new election the state elections board ordered unanimously last week. Harris was the apparent winner of the 9th Congressional District race before ballot fraud allegations surfaced.

Harris was hospitalized last month by a blood infection and said he suffered two strokes. He said he needs surgery late next month.

Former U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger and former Gov. Pat McCrory also say they won't seek the seat.

Catawba College politics professor Michael Bitzer says GOP candidates must distance themselves from the scandal that forced the new race.