Adana Adıyaman Afyon Ağrı Aksaray Amasya Ankara Antalya Ardahan Artvin Aydın Balıkesir Bartın Batman Bayburt Bilecik Bingöl Bitlis Bolu Burdur Bursa Çanakkale Çankırı Çorum Denizli Diyarbakır Düzce Edirne Elazığ Erzincan Erzurum Eskişehir Gaziantep Giresun Gümüşhane Hakkari Hatay Iğdır Isparta İstanbul İzmir K.Maraş Karabük Karaman Kars Kastamonu Kayseri Kırıkkale Kırklareli Kırşehir Kilis Kocaeli Konya Kütahya Malatya Manisa Mardin Mersin Muğla Muş Nevşehir Niğde Ordu Osmaniye Rize Sakarya Samsun Siirt Sinop Sivas Şanlıurfa Şırnak Tekirdağ Tokat Trabzon Tunceli Uşak Van Yalova Yozgat Zonguldak
Perşembe Açık
Cuma Açık
Cumartesi Az Bulutlu
Pazar Az Bulutlu

L. McCrae Dowless Jr., 66, Dies; Operative at Heart of Election Scandal

L. McCrae Dowless Jr., the North Carolina political operative who was at the center of a scandal involving absentee-ballot harvesting and …

L. McCrae Dowless Jr., 66, Dies; Operative at Heart of Election Scandal
26.04.2022 09:11

L. McCrae Dowless Jr., the North Carolina political operative who was at the center of a scandal involving absentee-ballot harvesting and tampering that led to the first rerun of a federal election in some 40 years, died on Sunday at his daughter’s home in Bladen County, N.C. He was 66.

His daughter, Andrea Heverly, confirmed the death in a statement but did not provide a cause. He was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer last year.

It was said that if there were 30,000 people in rural Bladen County, in the southeast corner of North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District, then Mr. Dowless knew 25,000. He grew up there, born on a peanut farm in a house without indoor plumbing. Aside from a short stint working construction in California, he never left.

Starting in 2006, he turned that intimate knowledge into a get-out-the-vote operation that served both Democrats and Republicans, and that soon earned a reputation for unproven but potentially illegal tactics.

Though there were significant concerns about Mr. Dowless’s work on a 2016 U.S. House race, in 2018 Mark Harris, the Republican nominee for the Ninth District, hired Mr. Dowless in his race against Dan McCready, a Democrat.

Mr. Harris won the race that November by just 905 votes. He did especially well among absentee voters: Though only 19 percent of ballot requesters were registered Republicans, 61 percent of absentee voters picked Mr. Harris.

Almost immediately, things unraveled. Witnesses came forward saying that Mr. Dowless had paid them to gather absentee-ballot request forms, or absentee ballots themselves, a felony under North Carolina law.

Others attested to a wide-ranging operation in which Mr. Dowless directed them to fill in ballots, specifying the type of pen to use and how to mail them (never in large batches, always from post offices near the voters’ homes).

The North Carolina Board of Elections ordered a redo. It was the first time that a federal election had been repeated because of allegations of fraud, according to voting experts. Mr. Harris decided not to run again, and in the 2019 redo Dan Bishop, another Republican, defeated Mr. McCready.

Mr. Dowless was arrested in February 2019 on charges of ballot tampering and obstruction of justice related to the 2016 and 2018 primary races; four others faced charges. That July he was indicted on similar charges related to the 2018 general election, along with six others.

The case faced multiple delays related to the Covid-19 pandemic and Mr. Dowless’s health. That did not prevent an unrelated fraud case from going forward. In June 2021, he pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud for failing to report his income from the Harris campaign while receiving Social Security disability benefits.

Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. was born on Jan. 3, 1956, near Lumberton, N.C., where Leslie Sr. worked on a 200-acre peanut farm. His mother, Monnie (Pait) Dowless, was a homemaker. He was the youngest of 11 children in the household, though the only child his parents had together.

The family’s first home, tucked into the woods near the farm, had no indoor plumbing, and Mr. Dowless later recalled bathing in a 55-gallon oil drum. When he was 10 years old, his family moved to a modern home in nearby Bladenboro, where he ran from bathroom to bathroom, turning the taps on and off in amazement, he told Michael Graff and Nick Ochsner for their book “The Vote Collectors: The True Story of the Scammers, Politicians and Preachers Behind the Nation’s Greatest Electoral Fraud” (2021).

Along with his daughter, Mr. Dowless is survived by his brother, Harry; his sisters Myrtice Johnson and Filena Carson; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Mr. Dowless Sr. ran a fertilizer store with his brother, and his son helped out after school and on weekends. And Leslie Jr. continued to work on farms, mostly growing peanuts, a prime crop in that corner of the state.

By the late 1980s he was managing a used-car lot with a girlfriend, whom he hoped to marry once he had enough money saved. When one employee died unexpectedly, they took out life insurance on him, with the check illegally backdated.

The scheme quickly fell apart, and Mr. Dowless and his girlfriend were charged with insurance fraud. But while she was sentenced to community service, he went to prison — a fact he chalked up to a crooked district attorney.

When he got out after six months, he set his mind on revenge, and soon found it in politics, distributing campaign material against the prosecutor who had put him in jail. The prosecutor won the race, but Mr. Dowless was hooked.

He dabbled in politics as a candidate as well. He won a seat on the Bladen County Soil and Water Conservation Board in 2012 and was re-elected in 2020.

Immediately after his death, Lorrin Freeman, the Wake County district attorney, said that all charges against Mr. Dowless were now moot, but that the charges against the remaining defendants remained in place.


Henüz yorum yapılmamış. İlk yorumu yukarıdaki form aracılığıyla siz yapabilirsiniz.