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It’s called Get Out The Vote, and the practice is alive and well here. Campaign finance records show Butch Pope, the Democratic candidate for District Attorney of Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus Counties, spent $15,000 paying people to round up votes for him during the primary election. Sometimes, that means glad-handing at the polls, other times, get out the vote workers drive voters to the polls.

“Dollar for dollar, I think it’s more effective because it’s more personal,” Pope told us, explaining why he utilizes Get Out The Vote. “They talk to the voters as they come up, they speak to them, they know them, I think it’s just good old, down home southern politics.”

Get out the vote tactics are legal, and commonplace, especially in rural areas like Bladen County. But Pope’s opponent, Jon David, has a big problem with the way he’s trying to win this election.

“The practice raises serious questions,” David told us, “because ultimately what it does is transfer power away from the voters to make an important decision, and lets a small group of people who don’t have the best interest of the community at heart, but their own financial interest at stake, to dictate who becomes important leaders in their community.”

One thing we uncovered that’s somewhat concerning in a district attorney’s race – many of the people Pope has hired to round up votes have criminal records. Pope paid the most money, about $5,000, to McCrae Dowless, a big player in the Bladen County get out the vote arena. But we found out Dowless has a rap sheet, including previous arrests for assault on a female, and felony fraud charges. One has to ask, is this the person you want doing your bidding if you’re campaigning to run the area’s law and order system?

“They’re not decision makers,” Pope explained. “They are not influential in my campaign certainly, but they know where the precincts are – they know where to be, what time, they know how to do these kinds of things. The fact they had a criminal record. I think Mr. Dowless may have had a criminal conviction 20 years ago or more, and he’s paid his dues. That doesn’t bother me.”

Jon David says Bladen County deserves better. “The district attorney should set the standard for what it means to be fair and above board in his dealings,” he said. “As a candidate, I am prepared to answer any questions that you have about how I get my money, or how I spend the money, because after all, how you run for office says a lot about how you’re going to run the office when you get there.”

It’s not just McCrae Dowless who has a criminal record. Pope, and a number of other high profile candidates running for election in Bladen County, have hired Levi Roberts for their get out the vote efforts. Roberts has a lengthy criminal record, including charges for going armed to the terror of the public, two counts of assault on a female, drug charges, and 6 arrests for drunk driving. So you might find it a little concerning that Pope gave Roberts gas money to help with his campaign.

Pope says he wasn’t aware of Roberts legal issues. “I would certainly look into that,” Pope told NewsChannel 3. “If someone was driving someone to the polls and they had a drivers license problem, I’d look into that.”

We tried to reach McCrae Dowless and Levi Roberts for this story. Dowless originally agreed to an interview, saying he had nothing to hide, but called to cancel our interview the morning of. He did tell us over the phone that the Get Out the Vote effort is an important means of improving voter turnout in Bladen County.

The State Board of Elections investigators who are looking into complaints surrounding the Bladen elections say Get Out the Vote campaigns are not unusual, and are an effective way for candidates to maximize voter turnout. However, investigators tell us it is unusual for candidates to be hiring people with criminal records.

Comment on this Story

  • Guest757

    The ” good ole boy ” era is over and has been for sometime, I guess you just didn’t hear about it at the local gas station. Isn’t that where you get all your news. And don’t worry you can never be like Wilmington, if you think you can think again..
    But you really have to get your head out of the sand…..

  • GuestNC

    The benefits of being the special attorney for The United States Attorney ‘s office include using State and Federal funds to combat known enemies of the District Attorney , in his official capacity.

  • carolinagirl

    You obviously haveno idea what you are talking about, Butch Pope was born and raised in this district, Jon David is from Miami and works under his brother, moved across the bridge in order to run for office in this district. The reason BUTCH POPE is considered one of the BEST defense attorneys in THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA is because as he says “WHEN YOU PLAY DEFENSE FOR SO LONG, YOU LEARN ALOT ABOUT OFFENSE” Butch knows what the prosecution should be focusing on and asking the defendent in order to get a conviction, THATS WHY HE WINS HIS CASES. Every man is innocent until proven guilty. Slick rick Jon David does not have experience with defense. DO YOU REALLY WANT 2 BROTHERS in charge of 5 of the largest southeastern north carolina counties…. I don’t think so. YOU GO BUTCH, WE ARE BEHIND YOU ALL THE WAY, and btw, if you read the article closely, who is it the news channel is backing, its obvious, and unfair for butch. Butch has also said, “I am not going to turn anyone away that wants to support me”. As far as Mcrae Dowless,he allows people that can’t get out to vote a ride to vote, informs people who are not as knowledgable about what is really going on and how important their vote is to the future of our district. Do the right thing and educate yourself about the candidates, and IM SURE YOU”LL quickly realize the BEST MAN FOR THE JOB IS HAROLD BUTCH POPE. You have my vote Butch!

  • Guest000

    Mr. Jon David landed here in New Hanover County from prosecuting drug crimes in Miami Florida. He is fiercely after local established people and once in office he will dig out to expose every minor thing everyone you have ever known or been kin to has ever done in their entire life. He’ll report them to every news agency , State and Federal branch of government he can think of. If you have ever been seen near a polling place holding a sign for anyone but him, he will work hard to find any statute that he can use to label your family and friends as Felons.

  • GHarrelson

    The reason people have to get out in Bladen to round up people is many…1) they may not have a way …2) some dont know how important it is to everyone including peoples grandkids coming up to0 make sure that the RIGHT person is in office & 3) some are just doin other things and lets it slip by. People need a little push to do this. Once they get there it is on them who they vote for. Noone is paid to vote for certain people nor are they taken in at gunpoint. All this is is simply others want to use what they can against others afraid that just by being the person they are they want get the votes & make it into office, so they have to put down people and try to destroy others just to get a chance. Butch Pope has helped many people..No matter who they are just because he felt they needed a fair chance…This didnt start because he was running for DA…He has done this for years because thats the type of man he is!!…As far as McCrae Dowless or Levy Roberts…so what if they have a record…What happened in the past is done and as far as I knew once you have paid your debt to society then it was over. When a Judge orders you a sentence or whatever then thats what he decides is the penalty of your actions so why is it 20 years later you are still paying? To be hanest & if everyone can be..Sit and think back to everything you have done in your lifetime…Aren’t you lucky you did’nt get caught??…If you had of I am sure that each person would have at least one thing on thier record!…Butch Pope is a good man, he is dedicated and fair…Has been for years & hasn’t changed!!…Now as far as the other guy..Ummm…Mr. David..Who is he & what has he done for anyone?…To add to this…you ever thought thats why some people that has been in trouble continues on that same road…Simply because they are never given a chance and always Judged by others…What gives people the right & when do they get a chance to do better????

  • guest 12

    We are very PROUD to have Mr. Butch Pope as our town attorney.
    If Jon David was in Senator Soles’s district, he also would have received the same $200.00 donation from Soles, that’s just how he works. Check the public records, Mr. Gore received thousands of dollars from Soles and Mr. Pope $200.00. Yes, Mr. Pope has been a trial lawyer AND he has defended police officers in shooting investigations and has defended doctors in court. He has represented rescue squads and fire departments and he represents two towns in our area. Anyone that practices law knows what a trial lawyer does, or should know. In criminal court, all lawyers are defense lawyers unless they are district attorneys. READ the Constitution! Mr. Pope has great experience for the position he seeks.
    I’m afraid of someone that’s only been on one side of the fence. Arrogance is always a negative. The only ‘light in the darkness’ is Jesus Christ!
    Knowing Mr. Pope, down home southern manners is most likely what he was referring to. He knows how to treat people from ALL walks of life and both sides of the tracks. How did Jesus treat ALL people?

  • Guest. Bruns. Cop

    Pope reported the expenses to the State. Many candidates probably didn’t. He might be a newcomer to politics but he is honest and open with us. One article said he worked shifts for DuPont and taught high school science before paying his way through law school. I’m going to help him.

  • Guest. Cop

    Did any of you really expect Mr. pope to examine the criminal record of dozens and dozens of men ,women and kids helping him get out the vote in Brunswick Co? Or Columbus , or Bladen? I have two guys grinding stumps in my yard but I didn’t check there records. Lighten up !

  • Guest

    Paid folks or volunteers putting out thousands of yard signs And large signs
    Since last Auguest has nothing to do with the polls. The man paid for the labor by check and reported the campaign bills to the Bd. Of Electons. An honest candidate ! Let’s support him. We don’t need these 2 Wilmington guys running our three counties too!!

  • Guest

    Butch Pope worked with the Guardian ad Litem Program for years representing Abused and Neglected Children in Court. He has tried many, many murder trials. I read that he was a science teacher and likes forensics. We need his trial experience in the district attorney’s office. WE DON’T WANT TO BE LIKE WILMINGTON.

  • Guest

    Mr. Pope reported his campaign expenses with full disclosure. His campaign people build and put up big signs in 3 counties. As the Wilmington station said, get out the vote expenses are legal. Puttiing up signs is
    Not vote buying. Here in Shallotte we admire Pope for reporting his Get Out Vote costs. we need him.

  • Horace Munn

    Felons can run for any elected position in the state of North Carolina.They can run for sheriff,however they can not work as a sheriff deputy.They may run for the board of education, however they can not work as a school teacher.My point,if they can run for these position they have a right to work and put food on the table.We all have made wrong decisions in our lives.

  • Guest

    You obviously don’t know Jon David to say first that he has no people skills, Jon has excellant people skills just talk to him. Also, Mr Pope although a nice guy has never been a district attorney only a defense attorney, so agaon check your information before you type it.

    However, if you would like to compare records conviction to conviction, bring it, because Pope has nothing on David. Pope has not been for victims as a matter of fact he has tried to help bad guys in court which would be against victims. Pope is not that much different than that of Rex Gore.

    Also, this article was not created or written by David, and they interviewed Pope. You can blame the Bladen County crooked politics pulled by Benston campaign that led to the scrutiny of the election process, not Jon David.

    Again, take the time to talk to David, and I know for a fact David does not sit in court and nod his head yes, check your facts Brandon. You obviously have no idea what you are talking about.

  • Guest757

    How can you say it’s negativity ? Facts are facts.. if they have a record it should be known..

    Way to go WWAY and the David for DA workers.. keep up the good work..

    the good ole network will soon be over

  • Guest

    Didn’t McRae Dowless work for State Representative William Brisson during a campaign?? Maybe you should question election office people about what was going on during that campaign, accusations of vote buying then…….. Or maybe they do not remember.

  • Guest

    You seem really defensive, Brandon. Isn’t it interesting that when your candidate makes a mistake that you resort to negativity against his opponent. That’s part of what is wrong in this country today. Rather than focusing on the issues, we have candidates who think it’s better to buy votes and their supporters who start name calling. Let’s set the record straight, because some of what you said is just plain wrong. First of all, Butch Pope has never been a prosecutor. I’m not sure what makes you believe that he will be a champion of victim’s rights. Butch represents the same people that he now says he wants to save our community from, like drug dealers, rapists and murderers. The fact is, Butch is a life-long criminal defense attorney and Jon is a career prosecutor. Here’s another fact for you. Jon has been a prosecutor longer than his brother, he’s not riding anyone’s shirt tails. Jon David has his own reputation as a kick-butt prosecutor and everybody knows it. I’m sorry you don’t like his “style.” I’ll tell you who else hates his style and that’s criminals. That’s because he’s been kicking their butts for years! It’s time that we have true change in Bladen County, Vote Jon David!!!

  • Guest

    Um, Brandon, you need to get your facts straight my friend. Pope has NOT been a prosecutor. He has ALWAYS defended criminals for a living. Jon David on the other hand has ALWAYS been a prosecutor and been a light to the victims in their darkest hour.
    “down home southern politics” a quote from Mr. Pope himself. That doesn’t sound like the change we need, it sounds like the same back scratching good ol boys club to me. Which is exactly what Mr. Pope is. He is the coward. He said he was running against the “Big Machine” when he launched his campaing.(talking about Rex Gore, Rep. Hill and Sen. Soles.( YET, he took a money contribution from Sen. Soles for his campaign. A hypocrite? More of the same ol same ol? Just more good ol boy back scratching? I’d say so! We need a real crime fighter! Vote Jon David!

  • Guest of the Smarmy

    Pole worker you say, that’s gotta hurt handsomely. Gives all new meaning to taking a pole, eh?

    On the literate side we know not to listen to habitues of the “come up” path on our way to the polls to cast our vote, at the poll booth, where the poll workers sign us in, after we’ve been polled by a Harris survey poll taker. I think you get it by now.


  • Guest over Best

    Dude, you got a couple of good ideas wrapped in the rantings of an illiterate.

    Let’s start with this: You asked “does anyone have a family that has never been on trouble?” (of course you meant in trouble)

    You wrote “no.”

    Step up son; get out of your small world. There are whole families and wide neighborhoods where the citizens have not had run-ins with the law. Some of them have never even been in a courthouse.

    Me, I laugh every time I drive by that courthouse square and thank the maker that I don’t have to park and go in. I laugh at those milling around outside.

    Seriously, is that how people dress these days to represent themselves in court? You might want to at least take off your precious raggedy a/s/s Budweiser hat with the brim all frayed and the sweat stains running from one side to the other. Ugh, Uck!

  • Guest461

    …Felons have the right to work. That’s why we have paving crews, roofing crews, ditch diggers and laborers. Unfortunately though, most of those jobs are given to illegal aliens these days. They don’t have felony records because they really aren’t here, according to the federal government.

  • GuestFaye Burckhalter

    I have worked the polls several times asking people to vote for certain people. I wasn’t paid. I volunteered to do this and only do it when I feel strongly that the person running will do a great job. Paying someone to ask for votes is just not the way I would want to see things done at the polls. Only unpaid people should be out at the voting polls asking you to please vote for this person…

  • RomeoEchoDelta

    I still support Butch – UNLESS – having had a few speeding tickets means I can no longer support a candidate….. Butch is a great guy who understands what it means to serve his community. I highly doubt he conducted background checks on EVERYONE who’s put out a campaign sign or shown support for him. The best I can tell, he doesn’t look down on anyone. He always greets you with a smile but is all business when the time comes.

    I don’t know Mr. David, but in a recent network show about a Wilmington murder, he looked more like his brother’s lap dog than a candidate for the job who can reason with people and work to clean up and clear out the court system in this district.

    Bladen, Brunswick, and Columbus have had enough problems without becoming little more than a red-headed step child annex of the New Hanover County District Attorney’s Office.

  • ANGRYGuest

    You Brandon,,, are an idiot!!! You are the reason people SHOULD vote for Jon David and not Butch Pope, it’s obvious ignorance surrounds Pope.

  • Guest_BLADEN


  • vote pope!

    I proudly wear my vote Pope T-shirt. I Don’t have a criminal record & think its pathetic that Jon David supporters dig & dig to find negativity.

  • Brandon Patrick

    Ok so is that ignorance or just smart. Does anyone have a family that has never been on trouble?
    No. So do you hold what people has done that long ago against them? I hope not. That’s equal rights. Jon David has little people skills and has no idea how to prosecute. Butch has been on both sides prosecution and defense he knows the areas that needs improving and has no problem doing so. Do y’all want somebody who is going to be a dash dog like Jon David that all he does is sit there and bob his head yes? Or do you want A MAN that is going to stand up for the victims and put the wrong doers behind bars? Are you going to vote for someone that ride on the shirt tail of his brother or are you going to be for the one that stands on his own two feet? If you vote Jon David then these counties are going to be in worse shape than they already are lets get our counties back if you VOTE POPE then say Goooodbye to bent politicians and crime and hello to the start of a new and order filled county. That was a cheap shot Jon just like you 5 min TV interview. Try again slick. VOTE POPE……

    Thank you,

  • Guest28451

    I wonder if he issues any kind of earnings statement that is reported to state and federal govt, and do these people report it as income on their taxes.
    Just one more notch in the stick helping make NC #1 in the corruption rating.

  • Guest1424

    How ignorant can you be to hire people to campaign on your behalf without even doing some background research into their history and character?

    At this point, these candidates get what they deserve if no one votes for them… They don’t even read up on public knowledge of the people they hire, why would we trust them in public office?

  • Guest

    The so called “glad-handing” is the main reason that I dread voting. I don’t want anyone talking to me as I “come up” to vote.

    I have discussed this practice with many of my friends. None of us have ever had our mind changed by a pole worker. However, if I ever learned that my candidate was HIRING pole workers I would have to reconsider who I voted for. Candidates should have such a following that people VOLUNTEER to work the poles.

  • Guest1118

    That it was all for democrat candidates. Just sayin’……

  • Guest

    I think you are all crazy if you think ANY politician for ANY affiliation does not do something that would be construed as illegal. Look to the Board of Elections and the way they run their office, they know about all these votes being bought and all the other problems that several candidates were being investigated during this past primary….what you dont know will kill you. What happened to the investigation? Buried by the Board of Elections. Mr. Pope was not included in this investigation, and we as residents of Bladen County reelected the same crooks as before. When are you people going to get tired of your despicable politicians that love to hate you and abuse you. They could care less about you. Before you talk about Mr. Pope, you definitely need to compare him to the “Other” candidate after you meet him. Arrogance is apparently Jon’s forte, pppffftttttt. You think we would be better off with that? I’ve worked in the criminal system and I know both sides of this coin. Until you have knowledge of this you cannot speak about anyone’s reputation and the job they have done. But do you want the David brothers running 5 counties????? Both sides of the coin works the same way……do some research before you open your mouths.

  • Guest1865

    Now, ain’t that something….criminals working for politicians. Politicians work for criminals, so what’s the big deal? They all run in the same circle, anyhow.

  • You got that right! Nuff said!

  • I agree! Thanks…..

  • Clarkton Votert

    Candidates covering three counties have to have lots of help, both paid and volunteers. NC law allows candidates to use campaign funds to get out the vote. If two guys were paid to build and use post hole diggers to put out large signs along with hundreds of yard signs in three large counties happen to have have criminal records from years ago – so what ?? They are putting out signs. Like they said on tv, it is legal !

  • They should volunteer if they believe in the candidate that much! WON’T EVER HAPPEN..GO TO BED WITH DOGS, GET UP WITH DOGS..

  • Guest

    It’s very concerning that a candidate for District Atty. would be using criminals to help his campaign! So, if those criminal workers get in trouble again…is there a wink/nod payback? This practice should be outlawed. In other cities where I’ve lived, like Richmond, VA, really hardcore ex-cons were used in the last presidential race by Democrats to go, not only into the jail population, but into inner city neighborhoods to recruit. There were reports of people being threatened and harassed by these thugs. Some were intimidated to vote Democratic as the same thugs were at the polling stations, watching. This is no different that vote buying!

  • Horace Munn

    A felon can run for office and be elected to any position in the
    state of North Carolina.They may be elected sheriff,however a felon can not be hired as a deputy.They may be elected to the board of education,however a felon can not be hired as a teacher.If a felon
    can run for any position what is wrong with a felon working for someone’s campaign.Felon are normal people that have a right to work
    and provide for themselves.

  • Guest

    U aren’t in Virginia or anywhere else…What r u thinkin…Noone went in there with a gun to thier head or a knife to thier back…Seems to me that is where your sheriffs department should of a stepped in…U think??

  • Guest003

    A felon doesn’t need to be pardoned to vote in NC. All they need to do is complete their sentence,including probation and parole.

  • SurfCityTom

    a convicted felon loses his or her right to vote unless and until pardoned by the Governor or President.

    If unpardoned felons are helping to get out the vote, that seems to send a message whether the Candidate likes it or not.

    If someone was convicted of a felony 20 years or so ago, he or she has had sufficient time to “mend their ways” and apply for a pardon.

  • Guest

    You lose your right to vote immediately upon a felony conviction. However, once your obligations are paid to the state, weather it be prison or probation, your rights are restored.

  • Guest461

    You can research this in the NCGS, but felony convictions can only be “expunged” by legal process. This is only applicable to non-violent, non-sexual related felony convictions and the expungement has to be performed by the age of 21. After that, it is on your record forever, no expiration dates, no get out of jail free cards, no pass go. You always will be what you were and anyone that performs a background check will know what that is.

    Pardons are only applicable to active prison sentences and it relieves the time remaining only, not the conviction record status.

  • EarlyGuest082010

    Well, I’ve seen it all. Something smells with this story. I would hope that the people of Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus County read into this story. Why would a candidate for an office such as this, pay criminals to go out and get votes for them? “Good ole Southern Politics” you say Mr. Pope? Now that’s just plain ignorance and offensive to say the least. Here’s food for thought, why don’t you go into the very places where you are paying people to go and buy votes for you? Do you not want to meet the people that are being paid to vote for you? I didn’t think so. This seems like an extremely unethical way to get votes. The Board of Elections allows this practice, I personally think it is wrong and needs to be addressed. Let’s just say you win, what are you doing to do when these convicted criminals appear in your court charged with another crime, how do you anticipate handling that? Back room deals? Seems like a serious conflict to me. Had I donated to your campaign, I would be appalled that you would utilize my money in such a way. One word “Pathetic”…

    This Office must be held by someone with high standards and integrity.

    Mr. David, If I lived in this district, you would certainly get my vote. Good luck.

  • 1Guest4today

    Is this who you want to be your next District Attorney? Someone who hires the very people that he might someday prosecute. I would certainly hope not. Mr. David, you have my vote. Mr. Pope you should be ashamed of yourself. You should buy a oneway ticket out of these counties. Be sure to take RC and all of his cronies with you.

  • oibrockstar

    First off, you my friend should know better than to act out so immaturely and oblivious. I am guessing you know nothing about Butch Pope and would make the wrong decision at the polls because of your irresponsibilty to educate yourself on the experience of the candidates. Rather than basing your opinions off of just news media, which clearly did not state all of the facts, and also, the gentleman paid his dues over twenty years ago, Jon David was not even practicing law then…and lacks the experience needed to straighten up our criminal justice system. One way ticket out of the counties, your preferred candidate has never practiced law in these counties….

  • Guest
  • Guest461

    Once convicted as a felon, you lose your rights to vote, own any kind of a firearm and many other rights along with that. Those rights can ONLY be restored through expungement as described in my post above. Completion of jail time, probation or parole does NOT restore ANY rights of anyone convicted of a felony. That is simply a basic part of your sentence. A felony conviction is forever on your record along with the loss of those rights.

    You people need to do your research before you post these innaccuracies!

  • Guesterheimer

    I am a convicted felon, from a number of years ago, and YES, I’m still a felon, but my right WERE restored. No guns allowed, but I did vote in this past presidential election. Once my obligations were fufilled, I simply applied to have my rights restored. Simple enough.

  • Guest99

    You need to do your research. In NC your right to vote is restored after completing your sentence.A felon can not own a firearm, but they can vote.

  • Its Me

    Guest 461 needs to do the research. Completion of jail time, prison sentence, probation or parole restores all those rights with the exception of the right to bear a firearm. Only that right can be restored by the ATF. Probation/Parole Officers and prison case managers are required to explain these rights to convicted felons upon their release from prison or final discharge from probation or parole. Not only are we required to explain these rights but are required to provide the individual with a voter registration form and assist them with completing the form if they request assistance. While they are always a convicted felon, their right to vote is restored.

  • Edamame

    Go to bed with dogs, get up with fleas.


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