May 3, 2022 - News

Friends of McCrae Dowless say goodbye

photo of a man named McCrae Dowless sitting at a kitchen table with wood paneling behind him and cigarettes in an ashtray

McCrae Dowless sits in his kitchen in Bladenboro, NC in 2018. Photo: Justin Kase Conder/The Washington Post via Getty Images

McCrae Dowless, one of North Carolina's most curious political characters, was buried in Bladen County over the weekend. He succeeded at his top late-in-life goal: never going to jail for election fraud.

  • About 75 people attended his service at Center Road Baptist Church in Bladenboro. He was remembered as a friend, brother, father and, as his grandkids call him, "Papa Crae."

Driving the news: Dowless died from cancer on April 24. He was 66 years old.

  • He faced state charges on counts related to a fraud scheme in which prosecutors alleged he illegally harvested votes in Bladen County in the 2016 and 2018 Congressional elections. He maintained his innocence until his final breath.
  • The Wake County District Attorney will still pursue cases against about six of his associates.

Between the lines: For cutthroat political observers, Dowless' death brought an unsatisfying resolution in the story of the 2018 election fraud scandal that put his tiny eastern North Carolina county at the center of America’s debate over election security. 

His pallbearers included:

Mark Harris — the Baptist preacher who had his 2018 election to Congress overturned amid the state’s investigation into the legality of the absentee ballot program Dowless ran for him — delivered a seven-minute video prayer.

What they’re saying: “He believed in you, he loved you,” Rushing said. “It’s hard to know somebody and spend the time that I got to spend with McCrae, and see the persecution that he went through.”

The big picture: Axios’ Michael Graff and WBTV’s Nick Ochsner had numerous exclusive interviews with Dowless as part of their reporting for their book “The Vote Collectors.”


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Raleigh.

More Raleigh stories