North Carolina losing favor of Democrats

State party’s woes give pause

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With the Democratic National Convention roughly seven weeks away, many are beginning to wonder if the party’s choice of Charlotte, N.C., was the best idea after all.

Plagued by state party scandals, promised no-shows from prominent Democrats, and a state hostile to President Obama’s policies and allies, Charlotte is starting to look more like a political liability and a publicity nightmare.

The idea had promise. Mr. Obama was the first Democrat to win the state since 1976 and its 15 electoral votes gave the president a comfortable margin of victory to beat Republican nominee John McCain.

Democrats hoped that by choosing Charlotte over Cleveland, Minneapolis and St. Louis, a second victory in North Carolina would be a little easier. However, the situation in North Carolina has only taken a turn for the worse.

Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue has her own scandal, dubbed “letter-gate,” in which the governor’s office is said to have altered Department of Transportation documents submitted to the state General Assembly hoping for a more favorable outcome on infrastructure spending.

In addition, Mrs. Perdue’s record number of vetoes and low poll numbers forced her to pass on a second term in favor of Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, who is running to succeed her

The North Carolina Democratic Party (NCDP) has its own scandal over allegations of sexual misconduct by then-Executive Director Jay Parmley to a male staffer, Adriadn Ortega. Mr. Parmley resigned in April just days after the story was made public by NCDP administrator Sallie Leslie, who claimed there was a cover-up within the NCDP to keep the story away from the press.

On the national front, several Democrats have publicly said they will not attend the convention, scheduled for September 4-6, including Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Missouri, along with a growing number of representatives and governors.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel said in a statement to Reuters that he would prefer for candidates to stay in their districts.

“If they want to win an election, they need to be in their districts,” said Rep. Israel, New York Democrat.

Several union organizations have made their views about Charlotte loud and clear. Union leaders have complained that having the convention in a right-to-work state with the lowest unionization rate in the country is a slap in the face to working-class voters.

“Kind of a wake-up call to that fact that really no one’s paying attention to the middle class and to the working people in this country,” International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) President Ed Hill told the Associated Press.

The IBEW will hold a “Workers Stand for America” rally in Philadelphia on Aug. 11 instead of donating to the Democratic National Convention — the latest of several prominent labor groups to scale back their donations, exacerbating the cash-strapped convention’s fundraising shortfall.

Add to all of the above North Carolina’s unemployment rate — 9.4 percent, the fourth-worst in the country. Then throw in the fact that North Carolinians this year adopted Amendment 1, defining marriage as between a man and a woman just a day before Mr. Obama’s historic statement of support for gay marriage.

Democrats, though, say the scandals and other problems have been overstated. The president, they say, is in good shape in North Carolina.

Mr. Obama won the state by 14,000 votes in 2008 and has recently taken a slight lead over Mitt Romney, according to a Public Policy Poll conducted in July.

North Carolina Democrats say the president has built a better re-election team than Mr. Romney, the Republican nominee-in-waiting.

“Instead of building a grass-roots organization from the bottom up, the Romney campaign has employed a primary-style strategy of carpet-bombing voters from above with paid media, the majority of it financed by super PACs,” said NCDP communications director Walton Robinson.

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