The interparty GOP battle for NC’s 8th Congressional district: What you need to know

A couple of weeks ago I wrote to you about the battle going on in NC’s 7th Congressional district where the clear winner of the GOP primary there, Ilario Pantano, is having to contend with the two losers of the GOP primary: Will Breazeale – a serial military record embellisher and someone with, er, “domestic issues” in his past, and Randy Crow, a troubled and warped 9-11 Truther who also fancies himself as a 2012 Republican candidate for President. Sadly, similar issues are taking place in the battle for NC’s 8th Congressional district.

The story has started to make national headlines (the AP wrote about it yesterday and it was republished at the LAT and some other popular MSM news sites; see also The Politico), and with that in mind I wanted to give a background/history of sorts from a “boots on the ground” perspective, seeing as I live in NC’s District 12, and work in District 8, which is right next door. This is a battle that should be a concern to all conservatives, not just those who live in NC8. Why? Because of all the US House seats up for grabs this fall in NC, NC8 is considered the top possibility to flip back into Republican hands, as 1st termer Larry Kissell is seen as very vulnerable. Whether or not the House switches back into Republican hands in the fall, we need to make sure that – at the very least – we chip away at Pelosi’s liberal majority, which will make it much more difficult for her and President Obama to get their big government legislation passed. And we also need to make sure to try our best to vote in the best candidates we can, candidates who will not only BE conservatives once they make it to DC but who also have the best temperament and ability to work with fellow Republicans to get things done in order to stop/reverse the Pelosi/Reid/Obama agenda.

This will be longish, and I promise I will try to be as fair as I can. But I can’t promise it will be balanced, because it won’t be.

The two GOPers going head to head in the June 22nd runoff are Tim D’Annunzio, who has contributed a cool $million to his own campaign and Harold Johnson, who has given his campaign under $250K. Both of them are self-described Christian conservatives with similar platforms, but D’Annunzio goes even farther by wanting to eliminate just about every federal department there is. There’s a runoff in NC8 because neither of them reached the 40% needed to outright win in the May 4th primary, thanks to the fact that several other GOP candidates were vying for the same opportunity. Tim D’Annunzio got 37% of the vote, and Johnson got 33% – less than 1,000 votes separated them.

What’s attracted the national media’s attention is the fact that some in the so-called “GOP establishment” (as D’Annunzio has called elected GOP officials) have started lining up in support of Harold Johnson over Tim D’Annunzio since the May 4th primary because they see Harold Johnson as a nice, honorable, electable guy who would do the district proud in Washington in representing the conservative values of the voters who (hopefully will) put him in office. These “establishment” types see TD as a loose cannon, an unstable figure who will likely lose for the GOP the opportunity to recapture NC8 if he wins in the runoff and who also has the potential to embarass the hell out of conservatives and Republicans alike on a local, state, and national level should he make it to Washington. Now, I know nationwide the rallying cry from Tea Partiers and other conservatives is understanably to rail against “the establishment” but I have just one thing to say:

In this case, “the establishment” is exactly right.

To say D’Annunzio, a military veteran and successful businessman, is “unstable” is putting it mildly. I have described him before as sort of a GOP version of Pete Stark and Cynthia McKinney. He is confrontational, volatile, and isn’t beyond trying to physically intimidate people who disagree with him – because it’s all a “conspiracy” to “get him.” He’s had disciplinary issues in the past both in the military and out of it. Oh, and did I mention that he, too, like Will Breazeale, has “domestic issues” in his past – which he more or less has reluctantly owned up to on his controversial (which I’ll get to in a minute) blog “Christ’s War“?

The 5/23 Observer report I linked to in the above paragraph sent D’Annunzio over the edge and that, in part, was why he held a press conference in Concord, NC on Monday the 24th – a press conference in which he grew more agitated and hostile as it went on, and where he demanded a journalist leave, and where he threatened to leave a couple of times himself. Why? Because while he wanted to both slam the “establishment smears” and defend himself against what was written in the Observer piece, he didn’t want to take any questions about the story, as you will see in the below video report, courtesy of local Charlotte news outlet WCNC:

Note in the video how hostile he gets over the NC8 voter who tries to question him on … the issue of answering questions. Note also the victim card playing, and the obvious megalomania.

Both D’Annunzio and some of his supporters suggest that the Observer story on his 1995 divorce (which they blame the “establishment” for) was “unfair” considering it involved accusations from his now-ex wife, accusations which are of the he said/she said variety, and I think that’s a fair point. You can’t just base the sum total of anyone – man or woman – based on what is alleged during divorce proceedings, not only because our lives are about more than just who we marry/split up with, but also because of the possibility that bad blood between the two people getting a divorce can lead to accusations that are outright false, especially when you’re dealing with custody battles (as was the case with D’Annunzio). So I’m not judging D’Annunzio based on that. What the divorce records do indicate, however, is a pattern of behavior based on what is already known, confirmed – and not denied by him about his history in terms of his past disciplinary issues both in and out of the military, his volatile temper, and his hostility towards anyone who disagrees with him. In fact, he has never substantially refuted any of the reporting about his past outside of explaning on his blog that, in so many words, those issues were “taken out of context.” As if “willfully failing to pay child support” can be taken out of context.

As you may have guessed from the title of D’Annunzio’s blog, he is a devout Christian. Seriously devout. While this, along with his phony “anti-establishment” stance, has won him some fans in NC8 – including a small Tea Party affiliated group called “We the People NC” (clearing the way for the national media’s Tea Party vs. establishment theme) it’s also won him some heavy duty criticism from concerned conservative Christians like myself who, while admiring anyone willing to wear their Christian heart on their sleeve, nevertheless worry that D’Annunzio envisions himself as some sort of local “Messiah” much in the way Barack Obama did back in 2008, and will take that belief to Washington, DC. Hey, don’t take my word for it. Read his blog. Just keep scrolling. The guy really does believe that every decision he makes is “ordained” by God. Now, I’m a Christian who tries to do right every day by God, but I can tell you right now that I know some of the decisions I make have not been ordained by God – like the decision to use my credit card when I should be paying with cash, or the decision to have that mega-burger with all the works rather than the Chef’s salad.  God would want me to do better.

Is this really the type of person NC8 wants to see representing them in Washington, DC? I suspect not, because while there are many good Christians who live and work in that district, they have to know they’re not choosing a pastor for their church; they’re choosing who will represent them in the United States House of Representatives.

One of the things D’Annunzio has said in response to all the criticism of his checkered past is that Christians believe in redemption and as such should be comforted by his assertion that he’s tried to redeem himself in the eyes of the Lord. I can appreciate that as a Christian with moral failings of my own, but in order for me and other like-minded Christians to be able to “take comfort” in the fact that someone’s tried to redeem himself in the eyes of the Lord, they have to demonstrate that they’re willing to change and do right by Him. As the links in this post clearly show, this is not the case with D’Annunzio, whose recent false accusations, eruptions, outbursts, open hosility and acts of physical intimidation tell the story of someone who is trying to sell a story about his “new” self that doesn’t match up with reality. Kinda like Barack Obama.

Let’s also take a look at his chief criticisms about his opponent Harold Johnson, a well-liked man in his mid-60s who came into the homes of Piedmont-area residents for 30 years between his time spent as a sportscaster on WBT radio and WSOC-TV:

1) Johnson is a “carpetbagger” of sorts who only recently moved from another district in Charlotte to NC8 and is thus “an outsider.” Gag me, ok? As I mentioned earlier, NC8 is only one line over from other Charlotte-area NC House districts, including mine. He might have a point if Johnson had moved here from, like, NYC or something in the last year but he didn’t. Unlike D’Annunzio, who grew up in Pennsylvania, Johnson is a lifelong resident of this state.

2) Harold Johnson’s voting record proves he doesn’t vote much. A minor issue, but not a game changer and certainly not a deal breaker. Hey, if I were running for office I’d have this issue, too – because some years I am simply not motivated enough to go to the polls because there is little to no competition and I feel I have very little choice (presidential election years are exceptions to that, of course). Does this mean I’m not committed to advancing conservative principles? Feel free to read the last 6 and a half years of posts I’ve written here if you doubt them.

3) Since Johnson worked for WSOC and WBT, that means he is a member of the “liberal media” and therefore cannot be trusted. Considering our negative opinions towards the MSM, this is a particuarly nasty attack because it assumes that anyone who works in the mainstream media is a liberal and therefore must be liberally biased. Now, while we know that a majority of folks who work for the mainstream press are indeed liberal, that doesn’t mean they all are. Not only that, but Johnson was a sportscaster, not a newscaster, so perhaps D’Annunzio can provide examples of when Johnson expressed a liberal opinion on a sports issue? I won’t hold my breath. I doubt Johnson would have even expressed a conservative opinion on a sports issue, considering generally conservatives in the mainstream media tend to keep their political opinions to themselves so they don’t face a backlash from their bosses.

4) Harold Johnson is an empty suit like Barack Obama who only knows what’s feed to him by a teleprompter. Er, not true, but just for kicks let’s turn this around and say that D’Annunzio is an empty suit because he can’t stand criticism and only knows how to read a scripted speech to the mainstream press when he holds press conferences and refuses to answer questions afterwards – just like Barack Obama. A true statement. See how easy that was, Tim? Think about that next time you go questioning a fellow Christian’s “mental capacity,” ok?

5) Harold Johnson is a “center left” candidate because the evil “establishment” supports him. Really? You’re “center left” just because state and national GOP officials support you? That’s news to me. Let’s take a look at some facts on this since it’s become a centerpiece of his campaign.

When TD claims to be the “anti-establishment” candidate, he’s playing to the emotions of the voters by using emotive buzzwords he knows will stoke the fires of discontent that burn in the hearts of many conservatives around this state (and, for that matter, the country) over the issue of some elected Republicans who get too comfortable in office and start doing the business of the “special interests” rather than the people they were elected to represent. While I can identify with that sentiment, the fact of the matter is that the reason he is so “anti-establishment” is not because he wants nothing to do with “establishment” Republicans but instead because he has sought out their support at both the national and local level … and they have refused.

According to local Cabarrus County GOP Chair Justin Thibault, TD has in fact sought out the help of that county’s GOP “establishment.” The county GOP as a group is officially staying neutral, but some of them – including Thibault – on an individual level have said they support Harold Johnson. As far as seeking support from the evil Republicans in Washington, DC, TD’s FEC filings note that his campaign took a trip to DC back in October. I asked him about this on Twitter last week, and he dodged the question:

@sistertoldjah: Could the real reason 4 @TimDAnnunzio’s hatred towards “establishment” B that he solicited 4 local & nat’l help & they wouldn’t commit? #NC8

TimDAnnunzio : @sistertoldjah nope.

@sistertoldjah: @TimDAnnunzio So U’re saying U’ve never solicited 4 endorsement &/or help from Cumb. County GOP nor been 2 DC since running 4 Congress? #NC8

TimDAnnunzio : @sistertoldjah never to Cumb GOP – I bypassed the establishment in favor of the people- most of whom do not belong to county parties

@sistertoldjah: @TimDAnnunzio What about visiting DC since becoming candidate 4 Congress? Maybe not Cumb, but U have met w/ Stanly County GOP at HQ #NC8

@sistertoldjah: @TimDAnnunzio Don’t understand U criticizing @VoteHarold for being a so-called “establishment” type when U’ve used them when it suits U #NC8

Note in his initial response to me about the Cumb County GOP he avoids answering the DC question. Wonder why? I know the answer. The reason he is supposedly so “anti-establishment” is because he actually did seek out their help on a national and local level and they refused to commit. So much for taking a “principled stand” against “establishment” types, eh?

And speaking of “the establishment,” let’s take a look at the elected GOP officials on both a local, state, and national level who have endorsed each candidate. Harold Johnson has a short list here, which includes Robin Hayes – who served 5 terms representing NC8 in the US House before being defeated by Kissell in the anti-GOP wave of 2008 – 2 former GOP Republican governors of this state, numerous elected state Republicans, and three of his former opponents for NC8 (Hal Jordan, Lou Huddleston, and Darrell Day). The state GOP has pretty much endorsed Johnson, considering the state Chair Tom Fetzer called TD “unfit for office at any level” – which aided in prompting D’Annunzio to call his Monday press conference where he demanded Fetzer resign. And just today, all five NC GOP members of the US House announced their support for Johnson:

The North Carolina GOP House delegation announced Tuesday afternoon that it is endorsing former TV sportscaster Harold Johnson in his primary fight against businessman Tim D’Annunzio.

In a statement, North Carolina Reps. Howard Coble, Sue Myrick, Walter Jones, Virginia Foxx and Patrick McHenry said they were announcing a collective endorsement because “we believe Harold Johnson is the candidate who best reflects the Republican Party’s conservative values and provides the best opportunity for victory in the November election.”

On the other hand, how many elected NC officials have gone on the record to endorse TD? Exactly one. How many national GOP politicos have endorsed TD? Exactly one. Now tell me something, are every single one of those elected officials who endorsed Johnson a member of “the establishment”? There are conservative politicos ALL OVER this state, and yet none of them save one is willing to go to bat for D’Annunzio. What does that tell you?

It tells you what I’ve told you from start to finish in this post: That, in this case, the “establishment” is right on target. Tim D’Annunzio is a volatile, unstable, inconsistent, duplicitous, manipulative, pseudo-messianic megalomaniacal candidate w/ a disturbing history who is indeed unfit to serve in elected office at any level. It disgusts me to see how he has manipulated some voters in NC8 to his side using the Bible not as an instrument of peace but instead as a weapon of destruction, and how he has used misleading and in some cases outright false negative attacks against his opponent, an honorable military veteran and self-described Reagan Republican who lost his wife of 44 years to cancer – and who most people in this state who’ve seen him on TV and/or met him would say is an all around nice guy, one who was obviously compelled to run for Congress after seeing how the Pelosi liberals in Congress have tried to “fundamentally change” America.

Is Johnson the perfect candidate? No. But then again, what candidate is? But he has the good temperament, the warm personality, and the core conservative values that I think would best represent NC8 in the US House, and who I believe would work well with staunch conservatives like Sue Myrick to push back the Pelosi/Reid/Obama agenda. Did I mention to you that he is on board with trying to repeal “healthcare reform”? Works for me.

In the long term, the lesson I hope that is learned from this battle is that sometimes it’s ok to trust “the establishment.” No they’re not always right, but neither is the “anti-establishment” side. For example, Sarah Palin, not considered an “insider” by Tea Partiers, endorsed the moderate, woman-card playing Carly Fiorina for US Senate in CA. I totally disagree with that endorsement even though I respect her decision to do so. I’m not always going to agree with GOP “insiders” – but nor am I always going to agree with the “outsiders” either. I’m going to do what we all should be doing for each and every candidate: Personally judging them by their voting record (if they already hold elected office), their stances on the issues, the way they conduct themselves towards not just supporters but opponents, the way they handle themselves with the press, and who they are as a person – regardless of who endorses them. Because where they stand on the important issues of the day isn’t the only thing that counts; character does, too.

Related reading: David N. Bass writes about the sticky situation the GOP finds itself in re: NC8:

It’s factious squabbling that could end up crippling the party’s eventual nominee. A runoff election is slated for late June between businessman Tim D’Annunzio (who won 37 percent of the vote, just short of the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff) and former sports broadcaster Harold Johnson (who won 33 percent).

Depending on the final results, the GOP might have shot itself in both knees and feet. That’s because state and national Republicans have ripped D’Annunzio and rallied to Johnson in recent weeks, even though D’Annunzio was the top vote getter in the primary.


The problem is that D’Annunzio, despite his past, remains popular with a good portion of the Republican electorate, even if he doesn’t curry favor with the party bosses. If he prevails in the runoff, the party’s establishment will appear laughable as they tread water on their past statements.

That factor alone could doom the GOP’s chances in this swing district, where the party has the best shot in North Carolina of offing an incumbent and contributing to a takeover in the House.

Make sure to read the whole thing.

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