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Political Operative McCrae Dowless Arrested, Charged In 9th District Probe

The News & Observer
File photo: McCrae Dowless stands with his lawyer during the 9th District hearing.


Updated: 5:30 p.m.

McCrae Dowless, an operative in North Carolina's unresolved congressional race, has been arrested and charged with obstruction and illegal ballot possession related to the 2016 and 2018 elections.

On Tuesday, Wake County grand jury indicted Dowless and four others on similar charges. The indictments said Dowless’ illegal collection of absentee mail ballots “served to undermine the integrity of the absentee ballot process and the public’s confidence in the outcome of the electoral process.”

The indictments became public on Wednesday.

Dowless, who was booked in a Wake County jail, was ordered to not have any contact with anyone named in the indictments. His bond is $30,000, and his first court date is March 25 in Wake County Superior Court.

[Read the indictments here]

The charges stem from the 2016 general election and the 2018 primary election. The indictments did not cover last November’s general election in the 9th District, between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready. Dowless was hired by Harris in the 2018 election to lead an aggressive absentee vote by mail effort in Bladen County. 
The board voted unanimously to order a new election in that race, and will meet Monday to set the dates for a new primary and general election. 
Harris, who had a slim lead over McCready in unofficial results, announced Tuesday that he would not run in a new election. McCready said he is running again.

Wake County District attorney Lorrin Freeman has met with elections board investigators and is expected to forward a report on the general election within 30 days to the State Bureau of Investigation.

In addition to the indictments against Dowless, the state also charged Caitlyn E. Croom, Matthew Mattis, Tonia Gordon and Rebecca Thompson. Each faces one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and one count of possession of an absentee ballot.

[Related Content: FAQ City: Understanding The 9th Congressional District Race]

The N.C Board of Elections praised the indictments.

These indictments should serve as a stern warning to anyone trying to defraud elections in North Carolina,” said Kim Westbrook Strach, State Board executive director, in a news release. “Today is a new and better day for elections in our state.”

The board will send staff members to Bladen and Robeson counties ahead of the new election in the 9th Congressional District to monitor and assist with the elections process.