NC-7 GOP US House primary losers tag team to try and destroy the winner

In my many years of following local, state, and national elections, I have never seen anything quite like this, and hope to never again:

Two unsuccessful Republican candidates in North Carolina have turned their guns on the primary election winner, endangering the party’s hopes of defeating longtime Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) in November.

GOP voters in the 7th District on May 4 nominated Ilario Pantano, a charismatic Iraq war veteran with a personal story many find compelling and a past encounter with military justice that gives others concern.

Among the latter is Will Breazeale, the second-place finisher and 2008 nominee against McIntyre, who told POLITICO on Wednesday he would do what he can to keep Pantano from winning the seat. He said the third-place finsher, Randy Crow, would join him at a news conference Tuesday in Wilmington, N.C., to discuss their plans.

“We’re going to work against him,” Breazeale — also an Iraq veteran — said. “If the Republicans don’t like it, they can kick me out.”

Pantano, who served in the Marines during the Gulf War and later became a Wall Street trader for Goldman Sachs, rejoined the Corps after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. On April 15, 2004, while serving in Iraq, Pantano shot two Iraqis who had been detained by his unit. He was charged with murder, but the charges were dropped after an investigation found that the shooting was justified.

The incident made Pantano a national figure and a focal point for those who believed U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were being unjustly accused of war crimes. His run for Congress in the district, which stretches across the southeastern corner of the state from Wilmington to the massive Fort Bragg Army base and has not elected a Republican since 1871, sparked cautious optimism that the GOP might have a chance of unseating McIntyre, who is seeking his eighth term.

Pantano declined to comment.

“It was not just a winnable race. It was a very compelling candidate in Pantano,” said Pete Hegseth, executive director of Vets for Freedom, which endorsed Breazeale in 2008 but switched to Pantano this year.

Pantano took 51 percent of the primary vote to 35 percent for Breazeale and 14 percent for Crow, according to unofficial results. He outraised and outspent both his primary opponents and raised $19,000 more than McIntyre in the first quarter of this year.

Here’s the link to the actual primary election results. I watched them as they came in on primary night and Pantano was always in the lead. Out of the 10 counties in District 7, Pantano won 8 – and tied Breazeale for another. It wasn’t really a contest.

And that’s what’s at the heart of all this. Breazeale has a history of losing in that district, and last week he lost again. Obviously, neither he nor Randy Crow know how to bow out gracefully. As Politico noted, Breazeale lost in the 2008 general election to Democrat incumbent Mike McIntyre 69% to 31%. Can you say “blowout”? I suspect that before Pantano entered the race earlier this year that Breazeale thought this would be his year. Not only are the polls both nationwide and locally showing the possibility of a GOP tidal wave of wins come November, but Breazeale had won a few key endorsements and looked to have no real competition for the GOP nomination.

Regarding Breazeale’s disgraceful accusations against Pantano, fellow NC resident and blogger Lorie Byrd pretty much destroys Breazeale’s “argument” here in a must-read.

As Pantano’s issues-based campaign to flip that seat from Democat control to Republican control for the first time in 140 years wages on in the weeks and months ahead, I hope – and suspect – that Pantano will not dignify either of the two losers of that particular GOP primary race with an official response to their personal attacks as he has a tough Democrat opponent to devote his full attentions to. It saddens me to think, though, that in the midst of this fight that he has to contend with the likes of both Breazeale and Crow, who both have – ahem – shall we say credibility issues of their own, issues that are much more serious than their imaginary ones against Pantano. Lorie touched on Breazeale’s a bit, but what is not widely known except perhaps to those in District 7 is that Randy Crow, who also plans on running for President in 2012, is a 9-11 Truther. And not in a small way. Read/view this page to understand the full depth of his belief that 9-11 was an “inside” job. And then ask yourself why Breazeale – who, as a member of the US military isn’t shy about wearing his “patriotism” on his sleeve – would want to team up with someone who believes that President George W. Bush, former Commander in Chief, helped mastermind the worst terrorist attack ever on US soil? It’s a move that smacks of desperation, of someone who just can’t let go of the fact that he lost.

As I mentioned earlier, Lorie touched on some of Breazeale’s credibility issues in her post, namely about his questionable military claims which to many people sound embellished, something he may have done in order to try and compete with Pantano’s solid frontline military creds. But there are other credibility issues that surfaced in the run-up to the May primary, and these are the issues that may have given NC-7 voters the most pause:

But Will is dragging around an anchor which will eventually take him down. He has a rap sheet that winds through a succession of serious scrapes with the law in Georgia and in North Carolina. A personal bankruptcy filing is recorded in South Carolina.

This bulky collection of court records about Will Breazeale weighs over five pounds. It is 2 ½ inches thick. The time line stretches over a decade, and it’s ugly. I’ve seen it. It will not hide or go away.

It’s not exactly common knowledge that this incriminating file exists. But many seem to know about it. It’s a volcano ready to erupt.

These papers are on public file at the Bladen County Courthouse in Elizabethtown, NC. Both civil actions and criminal proceedings are cited there. They chronicle a lurid personal history which includes references to intimidation, aggravated stalking, criminal trespass, larceny, threats of suicide, and even threats of murder directed by Breazeale at members of his own family.

Most of the incidents described are linked to his stormy relationship with his wife, from whom he is now divorced. The couple had one child.

Read the whole disturbing thing. He doesn’t exactly come off as a paragon of stability, does he?

Another interesting tidbit from that article points out that, not long after Pantano entered the NC-7 primary race, Breazeale had this to say about Pantano’s military record:

“Since the Marine general in their version of the grand jury indictment — I think it’s called an Article 32 hearing — chose not to prosecute him, he is innocent of criminal wrongdoing. I back him up on that.”

What’s changed since then? Quite simply, Pantano waged a clean, positive, issues-based campaign and made his case door to door to the voters of NC-7, and he won them over. Watching the race from the sidelines it was clear that as he was making inroads with the voters of that district, Breazeale’s campaign turned more negative against him. Pantano ignored the hostile incoming and instead focused on continuing to win over the hearts and minds of the voters. It’s a strategy I think will do him well as he moves into the next phase of his campaign to win the NC-7 seat outright from McIntyre, who is considered a “Blue Dog” Democrat.

Since his Iraq war days and beyond, when he was facing legal challenges, Pantano’s backers – both military and non-military alike – staunchly stood by him and continue to do so to this day. I think the military saying for that is “I got your six.” So while he wages his issues-based battle against McIntyre, he can rest assured knowing that many of us out there have “got his six” on the issue of Will Breazeale’s dishonorable campaign to destroy him with baseless personal attacks. If Breazeale thinks he can take advantage of the fact that Pantano continues to conduct a positive campaign that focuses on the needs and concerns of the voters in NC-7 rather than wallow in the mud with him and Crow, then he deserves to have his own personal and professional credbility – and motivations – questioned.

In this battle, too, he will lose. Again.

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