By Mr. Harris’s personal account on the stand Thursday, it was his slender defeat in the 2016 race that set a course towards the board’s choice. By March 2017, in keeping with a textual content message turned over to investigators solely on Wednesday, Mr. Harris was speaking with a political ally in Bladen County, a rural half of the district, about “the guy whose absentee ballot project for Johnson could have put me in the US House this term, had I known, and he had been helping us.”
“Johnson” was Todd Johnson, one of Mr. Harris’s rivals in the 2016 race, and “the guy” was Mr. Dowless, a Bladen County operative with a felony document and a status for shadowy work for Democratic and Republican politicians. Mr. Dowless and Mr. Harris met in a furnishings showroom a couple of month later.
“How did you beat us so bad?” Mr. Harris stated he had requested Mr. Dowless in regards to the 2016 race. Mr. Dowless then defined a two-phase effort that targeting absentee ballots.
In the primary part, Mr. Harris testified, Mr. Dowless and his associates would assist voters submit requests for absentee ballots — an extraordinary and authorized political exercise in North Carolina. In the second, staff would be certain that voters had acquired the ballots and would inquire whether or not they wanted help.
But certainly not, Mr. Harris was assured, have been the employees to gather the ballots.
Two weeks after the assembly, Mr. Harris pulled out his private checkbook and paid a $450 retainer. The subsequent month, earlier than Mr. Harris entered the congressional race, he paid Mr. Dowless one other $2,890.
Mr. Dowless and his associates, who have been usually his acquaintances or kinfolk with little curiosity in politics however hoping for quick money, went to work. Mr. Dowless, who refused to testify earlier than the board, has not been charged with any crimes in reference to the 2018 election, nor have any of his staff. Prosecutors are analyzing the operation, although, and are contemplating whether or not to convey any prison prices.
Within weeks of the election, state officers opened an investigation and declined to certify Mr. Harris because the winner, establishing this week’s extraordinary proceedings.