Wake County school board candidate Heather Losurdo is defending herself against claims that she has been overstating her work experience.
Progress NC Action, a liberal advocacy group that has targeted Losurdo throughout the campaign, says it's implausible that she was an account manager for First Union National Bank in the 1990s, "overseeing all small business loans in the states of North Carolina and South Carolina" - a portfolio of more than $2 billion, as her website says.
Losurdo, 40, says she did just that.
Losurdo, a Republican, is challenging incumbent Democrat Kevin Hill in the Nov. 8 District 3 runoff. The race will determine which party will control the volatile Wake school board, which governs the state's largest school district. The board, which is officially nonpartisan, was split between four Republicans and four Democrats after the Oct. 11 election.
Progress NC Action argues that Losurdo's background, which includes a personal bankruptcy and no college degree, wouldn't have put her in a position to have that kind of authority at First Union.
Losurdo, who initially declined to answer a reporter's questions Friday, said Monday that her job at First Union was to see which small business loans in the Carolinas were coming due and to contact the borrower to see if the person was in a position to repay.
She said she didn't have a staff and did not approve the loans. She says her website accurately lists her duties.
"It was an important job," Losurdo said. "It had major responsibilities."
Questions about Losurdo's background arose after Progress NC Action unearthed a 1993 federal bankruptcy petition filed in Colorado that showed she owed creditors more than $20,000. All the debts were wiped clean by a federal bankruptcy judge in 1994, records show.
It was the latest effort by Progress NC Action to discredit Losurdo. Progress NC Action had previously set up a website labeling Losurdo as "the queen of extreme" for her ties to the tea party and statements she had made on Facebook before she declared her candidacy. Progress NC Action had sent a person dressed in a skunk costume to trail after Losurdo, who had written "LMAO" - shorthand for "laughing my [expletive] off" - in response to a Facebook posting that compared President Barack Obama to a skunk.
On the 1993 bankruptcy petition, Losurdo listed two employers: the Crescent City Cabaret in New Orleans and the U.S. Air Force.
Located in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the Crescent City Cabaret opened in the late 1980s in response to the "very seedy" strip clubs on Bourbon Street, said former co-owner Greg Cagle. "It served a very high-end clientele," he said. "It was a strip club."
Cagle didn't remember Losurdo from her time in the club. According to the bankruptcy filing, she worked there in January and February 1993.
Losurdo said she was a waitress at the club to help pay the bills. She said she was going through a difficult time in her life so she joined the Air Force. She said those actions shouldn't be held against her by voters.
"It's not something that I'm proud of," Losurdo said of her life in 1993. "I'd like to go back and change a lot of things. It doesn't affect my ability to be on the school board."
In 1996, according to Losurdo, she got a job at First Union in Charlotte. Within two years, by the time she was about 27, she had risen to account manager," according to her campaign website.
First Union merged with Wachovia Bank, which was later acquired by Wells Fargo & Co. Citing personnel issues, a Wells Fargo spokesman declined to discuss whether Losurdo worked at First Union.
"How do you get from the Crescent City Cabaret in New Orleans to a personal bankruptcy with credit card debt ...to the Air Force and no apparent college degree, to a banking position in which you are in charge of all business loans in a portfolio of $2 billion?" said Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC Action.