Politics & Government

Harris campaign owes consulting firm for Bladen County absentee work

Who is Leslie McCrae Dowless?

McCrae Dowless is at the center of controversy in North Carolina's 9th district, but most of the time he's stayed behind the scenes.
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McCrae Dowless is at the center of controversy in North Carolina's 9th district, but most of the time he's stayed behind the scenes.

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Republican Mark Harris owes his political consulting firm more than $53,000, much of it for Bladen County absentee work, according to a campaign finance report filed Thursday night.

Harris, who defeated Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, still has not had his apparent win certified by the state board of elections, which is now investigating voting irregularities around mail-in absentee ballots in Bladen County and Robeson County.

The debt to Red Dome Group was first reported by The New York Times.

Red Dome Group is a Charlotte-area consulting firm founded by Andy Yates. Harris paid the firm nearly $430,000 for campaign work during the 2018 election cycle. Red Dome hired McCrae Dowless, an elected official and political operative in Bladen County, who is at the heart of the investigation into mail-in absentee ballots. Dowless and his associates are alleged to have collected the ballots — including some unsealed — from voters, which is not allowed under North Carolina law.

The Harris campaign and Red Dome Group have been issued subpoenas by the state board’s investigators.

The Harris campaign owes $34,310 for “Reimbursement Payment for Bladen Absentee” according to the FEC document.

Harris was at his home Friday morning, but declined to talk with a reporter from The Charlotte Observer. A representative said he would not be available for comment.

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Brian Murphy covers North Carolina’s congressional delegation and state issues from Washington, D.C., for The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer and The Herald-Sun. He grew up in Cary and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. He previously worked for news organizations in Georgia, Idaho and Virginia. Reach him at 202.383.6089 or bmurphy@mcclatchydc.com.

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